Exploring How Dietary Factors Might Influence Autism Risk
April 11, 2018
Over the past decade the field of epidemiology has begun to generate more clues about risk factors for ASD. Dr. Kristen Lyall has begun a novel study that will be one of the first to look at prenatal levels of the polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) that are critical to brain development in relation to autism risk. Maternal diet is the main source of PUFAs for the developing brain.
Dr. Lyall’s study follows 500 moms of children diagnosed with autism and 500 moms of a control group of children without autism to examine the role of these and related dietary factors in neurodevelopment. She is taking the science to the next level by measuring PUFAs in blood samples from mothers collected during pregnancy, rather than simply using reported diet as in previous work.
The project is laying the groundwork for future investigations of maternal dietary factors that may impact ASD risk, and could ultimately yield more detailed dietary recommendations for pregnant women. “The goals of risk-factor epidemiology are to better understand changeable root causes, so that we can reduce or prevent the impairment that goes with autism,” Dr. Lyall says.