1 In 6 Children ‘Neurodivergent’ As Autism Numbers Quadruple. Hello everyone, I hope you are well. In today’s post, I will be sharing a press release from the Food for the Brain Foundation. According to recent research, 1 in 6 children is considered “neurodivergent” as autism cases continue to rise. This means that more and more children are being diagnosed with conditions that affect their neurological development. We must continue to raise awareness and provide resources for these children and their families to thrive and reach their full potential. Let’s work together to support and empower all neurodivergent individuals in our community.
1 In 6 Children ‘Neurodivergent’ As Autism Numbers Quadruple
The number of children diagnosed with Attention-deficit /hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders classifying them as ‘neurodivergent’ has rocketed in the UK and the US.
“Now, one in six children in the US are classified as neurodivergent and one in 36 as autistic – a fourfold increase in 20 years[i].” says paediatric Professor Alessio Fasano from Massachusetts General Hospital for Children, Harvard Medical School.
Similar figures are being reported in the UK. According to Dr Rona Tutt OBE, past president of the National Association of Head Teachers, “There has been a dramatic increase in the number of people diagnosed with ASD. Although some of this is due to a broader definition of autism as well as better diagnosis, it raises the question of whether it may also be the result of environmental changes, which have also been dramatic.”
Some UK schools report as many as one in four children having problems.
Autistic spectrum disorders (ASD) are often considered genetically linked. However, since the genes cannot change this rapidly, the increase points to the influence of environmental factors.
New Frontiers in Autism Masterclass
A team of world experts is presenting a ‘New Frontiers in Autism Masterclass’ in London on June 21st to explore what’s going wrong and how to help children and parents.
Professor Michael Crawford heads the Institute of Brain Chemistry and Human Nutrition at the Chelsea & Westminster Hospital, says, “We can predict which babies will have developmental problems from the fats in the mother’s blood. When omega-3 levels are low, the mother produces a non-functional ‘brain fat substitute’ to build their baby’s brain during pregnancy, high levels of which predict problems. The brain is 50% fat, and omega-3 DHA should make up most of the structural fat in brain cells.”
Less than 5 per cent of children in the UK achieve the basic dietary recommendations for omega-3 and fish.[ii]
Dr Fasano thinks something is going wrong in the gut, with many ASD children reporting gut problems including diarrhoea, constipation, belching and excessive flatulence and ‘dysbiosis’ – abnormal patterns of gut bacteria. In some children, wheat and milk may contribute to these symptoms. His research finds that neurodivergent children show high levels of ‘zonulin’, a family of proteins that regulate the barrier between intestinal cells in the digestive tract that can lead to a “leaky gut.”.[iii] ASD children are often found to have opioid-like wheat and milk proteins in their urine, making these foods exceptionally ‘addictive’.
Vitamins may help. ‘A high level of homocysteine, a marker for B vitamin deficiency, predicts ASD and studies giving homocysteine-lowering vitamin B6, B12 and folate help reduce symptoms.” says Patrick Holford from the Food for the Brain Foundation, which is hosting the Masterclass. “Vitamin A improves eye coordination and vision, helping those with autism who don’t look you in the eye and have visual problems.”
A 12-month randomised controlled trial giving omega-3, vitamins, digestive enzymes, and a healthy gluten-free, casein-free diet showed significant improvement in autistic symptoms and raised IQ.[iv]
Nutrition and functional medicine therapist Anne Pemberton, who specialises in helping those with ASD, also speaks at the conference. Anne reports considerable success, not just by improving nutrition but by addressing the psychological and social circumstances of neurodivergent children. “It is critical to work with both mother and child, and not only address critical nutritional issues, stress triggers including early life traumas, and suppressed emotions as a result of their condition and conditioning, and to help them develop a sense of self and mindset. I have seen hundreds of children and adults who usually have major improvements. Peter, age 8, is a case in point. He was diagnosed with ASD and classified as needing special education. Fifteen months later, he’s no longer even classified as ASD.”
To attend the online Masterclass, visit https://foodforthebrain.org/event/autismmasterclass/
I hope you enjoyed that.
The Food for the Brain Foundation is a UK-based charitable foundation whose mission is to create a future where the importance of nutrition in optimising mental well-being and brain health as a means of prevention and treatment is understood by all and implemented by many. It is supported by becoming a FRIEND at foodforthebrain.org/friend
[ii] Kranz S et al., Nutrients. 2017 doi: 10.3390/nu9040392.
[iii] Asbjornsdottir B et al Nutrients. 2020 doi: 10.3390/nu12071982.
[iv] Adams JB et al., Nutrients. 2018 doi: 10.3390/nu10030369.