Imagine being the parent of a young child who is not acting normally and being told by your doctor that your child has autism, that there is no known cause, and there is no known treatment except, perhaps, some behavioral therapy. That is exactly what Jackson’s parents were told as their 22-month-old son regressed into the non-verbal psychic prison of social withdrawal, disconnection, and repetitive behaviors typical of autism.
While we don’t have all the answers, and more research is needed to identify and validate the causes and treatment of autism, there are new signs of hope. A study just published in The Journal of the American Medical Association by researchers from the University of California, Davis called “Mitochondrial Dysfunction in Autism” (i) discovered a profound and serious biological underpinning of autism—an acquired loss of the ability to produce energy in the cells, damage to mitochondria (the energy factories in your cells), and an increase in oxidative stress (the same chemical reaction that causes cars to rust, apples to turn brown, fat to become rancid, and skin to wrinkle). These disturbances in energy metabolism were not due to genetic mutations, which is often seen in mitochondrial problems, but a condition the children studied acquired in utero or after birth.
Bottom line, if brain cells cannot produce enough energy, and there is too much oxidative stress, then neurons don’t fire, connections aren’t made and the lights don’t go on for these children. In fact, this problem of energy loss is found in most chronic disease and aging—from diabetes to heart disease to dementia. Brain function and neurodevelopment in particular are highly dependent on energy.
This is exactly the problem, I documented and found in Jackson when I first saw him. He had a profound loss of energy in his cells (particularly his brain cells), and indicators of severe oxidative stress. This is the same problem many other researchers have found in similar studies. (ii) Despite the evidence, most physicians don’t test for mitochondrial dysfunction, oxidative stress or other myriad factors commonly found in autistic children.
Let’s look more closely at what this new study in The Journal of the American Medical Association tells us about mitochondrial dysfunction, and how this may lead us to new methods of treatment—methods similar to the ones I used to help reverse Jackson’s autism.
Autism: Brain Disorder or Body-Based Biological Illness?
The big debate (iii) that ranges in autism circles is about whether or not autism is a fixed, irreversible brain-based genetic disorder, or a systemic, reversible body-based biological condition that has identifiable causes, measurable abnormalities, and treatable dysfunctions. In other words is autism a life sentence or a reversible condition?
Many studies have illuminated the causes and possible treatments for autism, but mainstream physicians or scientists ignore most of this data. This new study, breaks new ground because it was published in one of the world’s major medical journals.
In it researchers from UC Davis examined children two to five years of age from the Childhood Autism Risk From Genes and Environment (CHARGE) study in California—a population-based, case-control investigation with confirmed autism cases and age-matched, genetically unrelated, typically developing controls, that was launched in 2003 and is still ongoing. What they discovered was the aforementioned mitochondrial dysfunction that lead to problems with energy. Interestingly, these abnormalities were not found in neurons on a brain biopsy but from examining white blood cells called lymphocytes. This means the energy deficit was a systemic problem—not one residing solely in the brain.
This study forces the question: How do children acquire energy deficits that affect their whole system, not just the brain?
The causes of mitochondrial dysfunction are well known, specifically as it relates to metabolism and the brain, and I have documented them in my books “UtraMetabolism” and “The UltraMind Solution.” They include environmental toxins (iv)—mercury, lead and persistent organic pollutants(v)—latent infections, gluten and allergens (which trigger inflammation) sugar and processed foods,(vi) a nutrient-depleted diet(vii) and nutritional deficiencies.(viii) These are all potentially treatable and reversible causes of mitochondrial dysfunction that have been clearly documented.