UCF Researchers Studying Link Between Diet and Autism

Does food eaten during pregnancy impact development?

A study is underway at the University of Central Florida to determine any possible link between food consumed by pregnant women and impact on the developing fetus’ brain.

In particular, Dr. Saleh Naser began the study after reports showed that autistic children often suffer from gastric issues such as irritable bowel syndrome. Dr. Naser, who specializes in gastroenterology research at the College of Medicine’s Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences, wondered about a possible link between the gut and the brain and began examining how the microbiome—or gut bacteria—differed between people with autism and those who do not have the condition.

“Studies have shown a higher level of PPA (propionic acid) in stool samples from children with autism and the gut microbiome in autistic children is different,” Dr. Naser said. “I wanted to know what the underlying cause was.”

Previous studies have proposed links between autism and environmental and genetic factors, but Drs. Naser and Abdelli say their study is the first to discover the molecular link between elevated levels of PPA, proliferation of glial cells, disturbed neural circuitry and autism. 

SOURCE: Science Daily

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