Sunday, January 4, 2009

Prenatal Vitamins - Dropping Acid?

Today my informant told me that there's a (possible) link between autism and folic acid. Crap.

Like, uh - isn't that the stuff we make absolutely sure we get in our multivitamins, that we force ourselves to take while pregnant? To prevent neural tube defects? Folic acid influences DNA? Yeah - I believe it. I know Nutrilite came out with reports that mulitvitamins can heal your DNA - I think... back in February?

"Researchers said the nutrient has the capability to influence genes, possibly making some children more susceptible to disease. From flour to cornmeal, pancakes and cereal, all grain products in your grocery store are fortified with folic acid -- from 10 percent to 30 percent, and in some cases, even 100 percent."There are a lot of foods that manufacturers are choosing to add higher amounts of folic acid than is required by the Food and Drug Administration," said Dr. Kim Waller, an epidemiologist with the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston.Fortification started on Jan. 1, 1998, the same time that rates of autism started to increase."The main purpose of fortification is to reach people who do not eat a lot of fruits and vegetables," Waller said.It was implemented to prevent serious birth defects like spina bifida. Waller said it is working."The estimated rate of decline in spina bifida are 20 to 30 percent," Waller said.Waller said the amount of folic acid we're getting from enriched foods -- bread, cereal, pasta, flour -- is only a quarter of what we would get from a daily vitamin. Yet pregnant women are told to take four times more. The question is -- could it be too much?"Some of these are from autism families where there's changes in chromosomes," said Dr. Art Beaudet, from the Baylor College of Medicine.Beaudet is taking a different approach at looking at the problem."We've been exploring the idea that a large portion of autism may involve epigenetic changes rather than genetic changes," Beaudet said.Epigenetics are subtle changes in DNA sequencing. Think of it as a sudden variation of font in a series of letters.Beaudet said folic acid plays a role in the chemical modification of DNA."There are some data in mice and in humans that folic acid intake can alter epigenetic information to some extent," Beaudet said.It possibly can set the stage for autism."We've been interested in whether any kind of nutrient issue could be at the root of this supposed increase in incidence of autism," Beaudet said.Although much more research is needed, now that fortification is in place, it may be difficult to determine if it's causing any problems. One thing is clear -- birth defects are down."We, by no means, want women to stop taking prenatal supplements. They're very important. They provide a lot of things besides folic acid," Waller said."

This link further explains the relationship between folic acid and autism links being associated with the genetic

However, recent research suggests that Autism may result when a child with a genetic susceptibility is exposed to one or more of a number of environmental insults resulting in a series of dysfunctional interactions between Genes and Nutrients (Nutrigenomic interactions). This can happen “in utero” (during pregnancy) or after birth.

Eventually these dysfunctional interactions can affect body systems, most obviously the gastrointestinal, endocrine, immune system and the central nervous system. The complexity of the thousands if not millions of possible interactions may well defy description.

  • Whilst there are genes that predispose to Autism, and we know that there is a genetic component to Autism, genetics alone cannot explain the recent rise in Autism in industrialised nations. This leaves nutrients and toxins interacting with these genes as the most likely candidates as causal factors for Autism.
  • The integrity of cell membranes that protects each cell can become impaired, leaving the cells vulnerable. There is much support in animal and human studies that a reduced intake in Omega 3 fatty acids results in impaired cell membranes and Neurodevelopmental disorders.
  • Deficiencies in Key Nutrients in our modern diet, such as Zinc, Vit B12, Vit 6 and Folate, may affect neural development and result in weaknesses in cellular membranes and internal processes of cells. These weaknesses predispose to the often devastating effect of environmental antigens.
  • Antigens (foreign toxic matter, heavy metals, viruses and bacteria) attack vulnerable cells and damage them, resulting in cells that cannot carry out their function normally.
  • Antigens can damage or change the expression of the genetic code in the cell, causing the cell to malfunction.
  • There is emerging evidence that a dysfunctional methylation system may result in abnormal genetic expression leading to dysfunctional cells. Vit B12, folate, B6 and Magnesium play a central role in regulating Methylation.
  • Abnormal methylation can interfere with metallothionein protein which regulates zinc/copper ratios and other metals in cell membranes.
  • Impaired cellular structures can result in multi-systemic disorders, affecting gastrointestinal, Immune, endocrine and central nervous system.
  • The delicate balance between beneficial and detrimental bacteria in the gut can be upset by antibiotics, food preservatives, toxic additives and environmental toxins, leading to a condition known as intestinal dysbiosis (a condition whereby gut bacteria species are abnormally distributed ).
  • Opportunistic bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract may irritate a vulnerable gut wall resulting in Irritable Bowel Syndrome, leaky gut and food sensitivities.
  • Some bacteria produce amines. When these bacteria are overgrown, they can produce large amounts of amines. A recent discovery in Neuroscience is that there are receptor sites in the same areas in the brain as neurotransmitter (messenger chemical) receptors. This finding suggests that excess amines can result in a scrambling of brain signals and affect learning, attention and mood. In a developing brain this can have serious implications.
How many more things will I uncover, that I have innocently done wrong? I can't go back and change the past - OMG, if only... but - I can try to learn more about Folinic supplementation. I guess that will be the next thing I dive into...

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