Newborn screening for autism – 3 sets of 5 potential biomarkers

I bought the research study regarding newborn screening for autism and it is exciting but was based on a small number of patients with a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (n=16, control group n=32).

  1. Newborn screening for autism: in search of candidate biomarkers. [http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23547820 ]

The research study evaluated the newborn umbilical cord blood for 90 biomarkers (various types of lab tests), 76 biomarkers were found to have consistant data available for all study subjects,  and three sets of five biomarkers were found to be consistently increased or decreased in the infants who were diagnosed with autism later in life compared to the infants in the control group (the research study only used patients with an autism diagnosis who had been screened and diagnosed by the same physician in order to reduce risk of inconsistent diagnostic standards in the experimental group (n=16).

The three sets of five biomarkers need to be tested with a larger group of children with autism diagnoses to see if the results can be repeated. Feasibly to save money on lab tests all newborns might be screened with the set of five most predictive lab tests and the infants who are positive for those five might then be screened for the second set of five tests or all ten of the other biomarkers. The fifteen biomarkers include calcitonin (increased) and Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH, decreased). Low TSH levels can cause increased calcitonin levels which causes reduced blood calcium levels. Elevated blood levels of calcium may cause an increase in calcitonin and having adequate levels of hormone 1, 25 D may be necessary for keeping calcitonin levels within a normal range. [http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC442503/]

Vitamin D was not one of the 90 lab tests that were included in this research study, however the sibling study performed in Sweden suggested that low vitamin D at birth is involved but that other factors are also involved because all of the children born to Somalian refugees were found to have low vitamin D so that lab value would not be helpful as a screening test. 2) Swedish Study Suggests Low Vitamin D at Birth May Increase Autism Risk [https://www.autismspeaks.org/science/science-news/swedish-study-suggests-low-vitamin-d-birth-may-increase-autism-risk]

Alpha feto-protein (AFP) is one of the fifteen biomarkers found to be predictive for autism later in life. Levels of AFP have been found to be increased in both the mothers of infants who develop autism later in life and in the infants who develop autism later in life. Buy the research study to find out the other twelve – feasibly a concerned parent (with money and a cooperative physician) might be able to have their newborn’s blood screened for the fifteen biomarkers on their own initiative, right away, rather than waiting for the mainstream medical industry to do further research studies.

— The fact that autism was unknown in Somalia suggests that it is unlikely to be a naturally occurring condition and that it is unlikely to be caused by a lack of anti-autism medicine or by the lack of an anti-autism vaccination, so waiting for the for-profit medical industry to devise a for-profit strategy to prevent autism seems like it might take awhile. Concerned parents should have a right to seek effective care for their children and for themselves.

Autism seems to be a condition that occurs prenatally which leaves the newborn infant with metabolic differences but who otherwise appears normal and then, depending on nutritional and environmental conditions, at around age two to four the child’s development shifts towards symptoms of autism. The goal of newborn screening would be to identify which infants are most at risk for that later shift towards autism so that they might be able to be given additional care in order to prevent the damaging autoimmune like changes to the child’s brain. A few different genetic defects that affect nutrient needs may be involved so a newborn who is identified as high risk for developing autism symptoms later in life might then benefit from being screened for genetic defects in the methylation cycle, or with the vitamin D binding protein, or with hemoglobin metabolism. Infants identified as more at risk for autism later in life may also benefit from being screened for hypothyroidism, iodine deficiency, or an excess of bromide, chloride and fluoride.

In summary, for now, this is complicated but very exciting — we have the information we need in order to help women prevent autism before conception and to help identify which newborns may be more at risk for developing autism symptoms later in life so that we can help give the infants the additional nutritional and environmental support that might help them prevent the longterm autoimmune like brain damage from ever occurring.

Older individuals who already have autism diagnoses may also be helped by additional nutritional and environmental support (reduce their exposure to pollutants and foods or foods additives that their unique metabolism can’t digest as well as average) but a “cure” for the changes that already occurred in the brain may not be possible for children and adults who have already been diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. Individualized nutritional support might help reduce negative symptoms and improve quality of life for patients who already have an autism diagnosis.

/Disclosure: This information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes./

A few perinatal tips that may help reduce risk of autism for the expected infant

The term Perinatal generally refers to the one to three months prior to conception. A woman might be advised about healthy diet and exercise habits during perinatal health education and would likely be encouraged to take a prenatal vitamin supplement during a time when she is trying to conceive.

The summary of potential risks associated with autism in the last post suggest that there are two basic groups of health tips for reducing risk of autism perinatally or prenatally:

  • tips for avoiding toxins from the environment; or for reducing internal production of toxins that are a result of the stress response, or are due to undiagnosed metabolic defects;
  • and tips for increasing intake of healthy nutrients; or strategies for identifying and treating any undiagnosed metabolic defects or low-grade chronic infections that may be causing nutrient imbalances or deficiencies.

This first set of tips will focus more on avoiding toxins from the environment and includes primarily recommendations that are already standard for perinatal or prenatal health.

For a woman of reproductive age:

  1. Don’t have unprotected sex after drinking a Rum and Diet Cola that is sweetened with aspartame/Nutrasweet.
  2.  Don’t have unprotected sex after drinking a Rum and regular cola either or any other beverages that contain alcohol.
  3. After drinking a Diet beverage that is sweetened with aspartame/Nutrasweet, don’t have unprotected sex with a male partner who has been drinking alcohol in excess. (A male’s alcohol intake during the few days prior to sexual relations may increase a baby’s risk for Fetal Alcohol Syndrome so it may also be involved in the infant’s risk for autism – more research is needed but in the meantime we do know conclusively that alcohol and Nutrasweet isn’t good for fetuses. Males produce sperm throughout their lives while women develop a large number of eggs during the fetal stage which are then released one or a few at a time each month throughout her reproductive years, approximately from age 10-12 through age 45-55. A woman’s health habits during a pregnancy with a female fetus will be affecting the health of any potential grandchildren that the daughter may have later in her life.)
  4. A regular cola or root beer may be better choices for beverages to drink before having unprotected sex. Brominated vegetable oil may be a food additive in citrus flavored beverages such as Mountain Dew and the chemical is in the same group as the flame retardant polybrominated diphenyl ethers which have been associated with brain development problems in children, fertility problems, and increased risk for hypothyroidism and cancer.[http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/20130129/brominated-vegetable-oil-qa?page=2]
  5. If you are a woman with leprosy being treated with thalidomide then do your best to not have unprotected sex, possibly invest in a longterm family planning method such as an IUD or Essure for use during the treatment with thalidomide.
  6. If you are a woman being treated with valproic acid for bipolar disorder, migraines or for some other reason then do your best to not have unprotected sex, possibly invest in a longterm family planning method such as an IUD or Essure for use during the treatment with valproic acid.
  7. If you are a woman being treated for autoimmune disease, hypothyroidism, obsessive-compulsive disorder, schizophrenia, or depression then it may be a good idea to not have unprotected sex at least while your disease is in a more severe stage. It might be a good idea to invest in a longterm family planning method such as an IUD or Essure for use while you’re being treated for a severe chronic disease or mental illness. Rubella, cytomegalovirus, stress, and allergic reactions have also been associated with increased risk for autism, so avoiding unprotected sex during acute sickness, stress, or allergy flair-ups might also be a good idea.
  8. In case you missed the theme – try to avoid having unprotected sex unless you are healthy and toxin free and your partner is also – it is not easy to grow a baby. And if you are in a relationship with someone who is not willing to discuss or plan for a safer pregnancy then it may be worth ending the relationship or seeking help. [http://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-sexassault-coercion-idUSKCN0R42CD20150904] (In the U.S. call the National Domestic Violence Hotline for support and referrals: 1-800-799-7233 | 1-800-787-3224 (TTY), http://www.thehotline.org/ )

The perinatal time period is a time to prepare a healthy and welcoming environment so the egg and sperm will be able to successfully implant as a healthy little zygote (the fetal stage where the egg and sperm have combined into a single cell). “One-half of all pregnancies in the U.S. are unintended.”Population Connection [From a handout: “Our Mission At Population Connection is Critical!,” 15AK-1l]

If we hope to reduce the rate of children born in the U.S. who later develop autism, and it is a problem that develops during the early weeks of pregnancy, then we really need to reduce the rate of unintended pregnancies. If autism is able to be prevented in the first week of pregnancy then women will need to either always be healthy and ready for an unexpected pregnancy (because rapists wouldn’t want their love power-and-domination-child to be autistic, surely?) or women will need to plan and prepare before trying to become pregnant so that their body will be as healthy and as ready to receive the implantation of the zygote as possible.

/Disclosure: This information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes./

Methyl Donors and BPA

Methyl donors are chemicals that can donate a methyl group which is made up of one carbon atom and three hydrogen atoms. Methyl groups on DNA signal the genes to remain unactivated, to stay in an off position. Removing the methyl groups can signal the gene to become active. A gene that has few methyl groups atttached may be more easily activated than normally.

This excerpt includes methyl donors and at least one methyl remove-er (BPA).

“Nutritional components that may influence the methylation of epigenetically susceptible loci include folic acid, vitamin B6 and 12, selenium, choline and betaine, methionine, soy genistein, bisphenol A, tocopherols, diallyl disulfide in garlic, and tea polyphenols [28]” [1]                                               *tocopherols are the vitamin E group.

Bisphenol A is not a natural component of food as I understand nutrition but BPA may be part of the plastic lining of cans and other food packages such as plastic drink bottles. It is also found on the slick coating of some types of register receipts. BPA may cause hypomethylation of DNA, fewer methyl groups on the DNA may cause activation of genes.

Bisphenyl A can act similarly to the hormone estrogen. Soy genistein is a phytoestrogen that may help block harmful effects of the estrogen mimetics. Other methyl donors that may help block the effects of BPA are the B vitamins folic acid, vitamin B6 and B12 and choline and betaine.

Avoiding the supplement forms and eating more food sources of Folate and methyl B12 may be more beneficial for people with defects in the methylation cycle.(MTHFR is one example). Taking the unmethylated supplement forms may interfere with the smaller quantities of bioactive folate and B12 that might be found in natural sources.

Adequate B vitamins prenatally may also help protect against DNA changes in the infant.

Folate or Folic Acid:

Folate is the form of the vitamin found in food and it is more bioactive than Folic acid. Folic acid is the form that is commonly available as a supplement and in fortified foods however it requires adequate supplies of vitamin B12 to be available in order to be converted into a more usable form. A genetic difference may exist in some individuals that prevent the body from being able to convert the inactive Folic acid form into Folate, the methylated bioactive form of the vitamin.

Food Sources of Folate, the bioactive natural form, include: most beans and peanuts, black eyed peas, green peas, grains, asparagus, most dark green vegetables, orange juice, citrus fruits. Fortified cereal and rice are good sources of folic acid, the supplemental form.

Vitamin B12:

Food Sources of Vitamin B12 include: shellfish, fish, meat, poultry, eggs, milk, cheese, dairy products, Nutritional or Brewer’s yeast. Vegetarians who don’t eat dairy, eggs, fish or other meat products may need a supplement or nutritional yeast, a vegan food source of vitamin B12.

Injections of B12 may be needed for better absorption of the nutrient for some individuals with stomach problems. Adequate stomach acid and a cofactor are required for normal absorption of vitamin B12. A genetic difference may be a problem for some people causing them to need the methylated active form of B12 rather than being able to benefit from the more commonly available unmethylated supplement.

Vitamin B6:

Food Sources of Vitamin B6 include: fortified cereal, barley, buckwheat, avocados, baked potato with the skin, beef, poultry, salmon, bananas, green leafy vegetables, beans, nuts, sunflower seeds.

Choline and Betaine:

Choline is also a water soluble essential nutrient that is frequently grouped with the rest of the B vitamins. Choline is found throughout the body but is particularly important within the brain. Betaine is a metabolite of choline. Spinach and beets are rich in betaine. Good sources of choline include egg yolks, soy beans, beef, poultry, seafood, green leafy vegetables and cauliflower.

/Disclosure: This information is provided for educational purposes and is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes./

  1. Kyung E. Rhee, et al., Early Determinants of Obesity: Genetic, Epigenetic, and In Utero Influences, International Journal of Pediatrics, Vol. 2012
  2. J. Higdon & V. Drake,  An Evidence-based Approach to Vitamins and Minerals:  Health Benefits and Intake Recommendations, 2nd Ed., (Thieme, Stuttgart / New York, 2012)
  3. “Choline” on whfoods.com: [whfoods.com]
  4. Betaine,” (Feb. 11, 2012) PubMed Health: [ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/]  *link not working, part of the information is available here: [med.nyu.edu]
  5. Rebecca J. Schmidt, et. al. , “Prenatal vitamins, one-carbon metabolism gene variants, and risk for autism,” Epidemiology. 2011 Jul; 22(4): 476–485. [ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
  6. MTHFR C677T Mutation: Basic Protocol,” 

Pyroluria, anxiety, and deficiency of B6 and zinc

(originally posted on March 18, 2013, most recent update 4/9/17)

Research suggests that pyroluria is a condition caused by a genetic difference that prevents the normal breakdown of pyrroles which are side products of hemoglobin breakdown. [5 , 8] The excess pyrroles are not toxic but when they aren’t broken down to smaller chemicals they instead combine with vitamin B6 and zinc and form a compound that is excreted by the kidneys. In normal metabolism zinc and B6 molecules would be recovered for reuse instead of being excreted. The daily nutrient loss can lead to a chronic deficiency of vitamin B6 and zinc and a variety of symptoms.

Symptoms of Pyroluria:

Physical symptoms might include white spots on the fingernails from zinc deficiency. The spots can occur where a bruise to the fingernail occurred but they are more likely to form when zinc deficiency is present. Zinc is important for both wound healing and cell growth so skin infections may also be more common. Stunted growth and teeth that are crooked from overcrowding may result when zinc deficiency is a chronic problem throughout childhood.

Poor dream recall is a symptom of B6 deficiency. Digestion problems and skin symptoms may occur. Dry peeling lips with poorly healing cracks at the corners of the mouth may be a problem with B6 deficiency.

Migraines, seizures and joint pain may be symptoms of pyroluria. Insomnia, exhaustion and sensitivity to light and sound may be problems. Anxiety can become severe over time and the person may isolate themselves to reduce stress. Depression, mood swings and temper outbursts are possible symptoms. [3, see link for more physical signs and symptoms.]

I learned of pyroluria as a possible cause of B6 and zinc deficiency in a book by Julia Ross, MA, called The Mood Cure, The Four Step Program to Take Charge of Your Emotions – Today. It included a self test and information from a book by Joan Mathews Larson, PhD, called Depression Free Naturally. Excerpts are available on her website which include more detail about pyroluria as a treatable cause of anxiety and depression: [7] Her work has helped patients at the Health Recovery Center for years. The center uses therapies designed to restore nutrient balance and correct deficiencies that may be underlying causes of anxiety, depression or addictions. [healthrecovery.com]

Zinc and B6 are needed for production of neurotransmitters that help prevent anxiety and depression. Mental health problems caused by nutrient deficiencies would not be helped much by typically prescribed antidepressants or anti-anxiety drugs. [1]

Ten percent of people may suffer from pyroluria but the condition is not yet widely recognized in the medical field. A research study found the condition to be more prevalent in people with mental health diagnoses and in groups of violent criminals. The pyrrole chemical was present in 71% of adults charged with sudden onset criminal behavior and in 33% of youth charged for a violent crime. Evidence of pyroluria was also more commonly found in patients with OCD, Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease or Lyme Disease. It was found  in 40% or more of people with autism, ADHD, manic depression (bipolar disorder), schizophrenia, Down’s Syndrome, epilepsy, or porphyria. [35 ]

/Speculation/ This could explain why some studies have found B6 supplements helpful for autism but others weren’t able to replicate the results. If 40-50% of the autistic patients in a study had undiagnosed pyroluria then those participants might find high dose B6 supplements very helpful while the rest of the study group might not notice any change.

Pyroluria may also be associated with hypothyroidism and iodine deficiency according to lecture by Dr. Erica Peirson. And a lack of stomach acid may be involved and which would increase risk of nutrient deficiencies. If that is a chronic condition then having salsa or a dill pickle or something else acidic with larger meals can help improve digestion and absorption of B vitamins and other nutrients, especially as we get older in years. Watch this video, Dr Erica Peirson – Pyroluria: Links to Down syndrome and autism, for more information: [10] .

The good news is that, once identified, pyroluria is very treatable with use of well absorbed forms of vitamin B6 and zinc. The bad news — the supplements have to be taken everyday because the amounts needed are more than is really possible to be found in foods. The supplements are replacing the excessive nutrient loss caused by the daily excretion of the nutrient pyrrole compounds. Deficiency symptoms may start to return after only 48 hours without the high dose zinc and B6 supplements. [3]

A few other nutrient supplements may also be needed to restore nutrient balance. Magnesium may be helpful and niacin (B3), pantothenic acid (B5) and manganese may also be deficient. [1] The essential omega 6 fatty acid, arachidonic acid, may also become deficient. [2] The nutrients, zinc and vitamin B6, are essential for enzymes active throughout the body. Deficiency of B6 may lead to digestive problems and impaired absorption of B12 and other nutrients. Zinc deficiency can also lead to excessive levels of copper which can be neurotoxic and may require chelation therapy. [3] Avoiding foods rich in copper and red and yellow food dyes may be helpful. [2]

Evening primrose oil is recommended as an additional supplement by a medical doctor in the following post. Evening primrose oil would be a good source of essential omega 6 fatty acids. More detail is included in the article about the mental health and other physical symptoms common for patients with pyroluria to experience. It also states in the article that treatment with the supplements can quickly end the negative symptoms for patients when the condition is first diagnosed and treated. [8]

I have found personally that continuing the supplements daily is an ongoing necessity. Earliest symptoms of the B6 and zinc deficiency may be experienced after only missing a few days of the supplements. For me increased anxiety and headaches may occur after only a couple days of forgetting the supplements.

Before I had discovered the problem zinc deficiency was severe enough for me to have many white spots on my fingernails and for me it also seemed to be the cause of anorexia – extreme lack of appetite. Which is a symptom that was not mentioned in the article [8] that included a long list of symptoms. See excerpt:

Here is Dr. Walsh’s list of some of the symptoms correlated with pyroluria: Poor stress control, sensitivity to bright lights and loud noises, morning nausea, tendency to delay or skip breakfast, very dry skin, pale skin, inability to tan, high irritability and temper, history of underachievement, little or no dream recall, auto immune disorders, white spots on the finger nails, poor growth, coarse eyebrow hair, stretch marks on the skin, severe anxiety and/or depression, fearfulness, obsessions with negative thoughts, delayed puberty, dark or mauve colored urine, affinity for spicy and salty foods, abnormal fat distribution, delicate facial features, extreme mood swings, history of dyslexia, severe inner tension, frequent infections, premature graying of hair, poor muscle development, spleen area pain, joint pain, poor wound healing, psoriasis, tendency to stay up very late, abnormal or absent menstrual periods. [8]

Zinc deficiency has been associated with anorexia nervosa. [9]  For me at the time, swallowing just one or two bites of food at the time would seem like a lot of work. The food felt like dry sawdust when I would try to swallow and my mood when being encouraged to eat would tend towards feelings of “how can you ask such a difficult task of me,” (eating shouldn’t promote anxiety or feel like sawdust). Once I had been on the high dose supplements for a little while my appetite normalized and I don’t get many white spots on my fingernails (an opaque white spot instead of the pinkish color of the skin under the nailbed; white spots may appear in anyone’s fingernail after a bump or some sort of injury damaged it).

Caution: Taking high dose zinc supplements can be dangerous to copper balance in people who do not have pyroluria.

Gluten intolerance and excessive use of coffee or other diuretics may increase the severity of the condition. [3] Infections or other problems that cause increased destruction of red blood cells could also exacerbate the condition. The pyrroles can be a produced during hemoglobin synthesis and also during break down of red blood cells. [6]

If white spots on fingernails seems like a normal part of life then consider reading more about pyroluria. [7] Not all physicians are familiar with the condition and lab samples need to be treated carefully or the pyrrole compound will deteriorate. One lab protects samples from oxidizing by adding ascorbic acid (vitamin C) to the collection tube and the sample is then kept out of light and is frozen until testing. [4]

More information about vitamin B6 and food sources is available here: Vitamin B6

Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and the information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes.

  1. By Julia Ross, MA, “The Mood Cure, The Four Step Program to Take Charge of Your Emotions – Today,” (Penguin Books, 2004 ed., New York) p314-315  *This book also addresses nutrients that can help during addiction recovery in addition to other mood disorders.
  2. J. Kaslow, MD, “Pyroluria,” DrKaslow.com: [drkaslow.com] This article suggests that avoiding red and yellow food coloring may be helpful.
  3. “Pyroluria, A Hidden Disorder,” Naturalinsight.hubpages.com: [naturalinsight.hubpages.com]
  4. “Do I Have Pyroluria,” A self test about the condition is available on this laboratory website under the Reference Tab: [kryptopyrrole.com/]
  5. McGinnis WR, et. al., “Discerning the Mauve Factor, Part 1,” Altern Ther Health Med. 2008 Mar-Apr;14(2):40-50.  [ncbi.nlm.nih.gov] *The abstract mentions that use of B6 and zinc or the use of antibiotics helped reduce urinary excretion of hydroxyhemopyrrolin-2-one (HPL). The chemical was originally nicknamed the Mauve Factor, due to its purplish color.  Prednisone has been known to increase urinary loss of HPL and it is theorized that increased stress would also cause increased excretion of HPL possibly due to changes in intestinal permeability that affect urinary concentrations.
  6. A patient forum, braintalkcommunities.org, has a post by member, Halsgluten, which suggests that SIBO, small intestine biofilm/bacterial overgrowth, may add to pyrrole production by causing an increase in red blood cell breakdown. The pyrrole compound, HPL, can be formed during synthesis of hemoglobin or during destruction of red blood cells. *The observation that antibiotics helped in reference #5 could be due to their helping fight an underlying intestinal infection or other chronic infection that is causing destruction of red blood cells.
  7. Joan Mathews Larson, PhD, “Soothing the Anxious Brain,” includes excerpts from her book, “Depression Free Naturally,” [joanmathewslarson.com]
  8. Pyroluria, Mental Health and the Immune System, JudyTsafirMD.com,
    http://www.judytsafrirmd.com/pyroluria-mental-health-and-the-immune-system/
  9. Humphries, L., et al., Zinc deficiency and eating disorders. J Clin Psychiatry. 1989 Dec;50(12):456-9.  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2600063
  10. Video: Dr Erica Peirson – Pyroluria: Links to Down syndrome and autism, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nOFU7q9EIyM

Good news about the deficit and about preeclampsia

With so many sad stories in the news it was nice to read an opinion piece with a positive tone. The deficit may seem huge but  it was encouraging to read that in relation to the national Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the national deficit has stabilized over the last few years. [1]

More jobs leads to more income which allows more people to buy more products and services which leads to more jobs to create more products and services  — which increases the GDP.

There was also good news in the prenatal health industry – an inexpensive diagnostic test has been discovered that can detect preeclampsia during early stages of the prenatal condition. Misshapen proteins similar to those found in Alzheimer’s disease were found to be present in the urine of women with preeclampsia. The beta-amyloid proteins have an unusual folded shape which can’t be broken down by enzymes and instead collect in the placenta and disrupt blood flow to the growing infant. [2]

Discovery of an accurate and inexpensive diagnostic test may add to the GDP through direct sales of the paper-based Congo Red Dot urine test and by helping prevent sick days during pregnancy. Preeclampsia can be life threatening for the woman and child but more typically the condition is associated with high blood pressure and increased protein losses in the urine. It is a leading cause of premature delivery which increases risk of low birth weight and other birth defects. [3] The discovery of the presence of beta-amyloid proteins in preeclampsia may also help researchers identify possible causes the condition, which are not known at this time.

Following the clue about the special type of protein found in common between Alzheimer’s and preeclampsia led me to a third condition that is associated with both conditions and with amyloidosis, which is a non-specific term referring to an excess of the misshapen proteins.

Cardiomyopathy can be a diagnosis  or symptom found with Alzheimer’s, preeclampsia, amyloidosis and it also may be associated with hypo- or hyperthyroidism or with infectious conditions such as sarcoidosis. Cardiomyopathy may also occur with starvation and with deficiencies of potassium and magnesium or taurine, carnitine, selenium and thiamine (vit. B1). [4] The amino acid taurine has also been found useful for preventing damage associated with Alzheimer’s disease. [5]

Starvation is certainly bad for pregnancy and so are nutrient deficiencies but at least those problems have known solutions – increase intake of healthy foods. A prenatal person with severe nausea and vomiting might not easily be able to increase their intake but use of targeted supplements or nutrient dense foods might help reduce the severity of symptoms or prevent worsening of an underlying condition.

Detecting who is at risk for preeclampsia before symptoms are severe could provide time to test and treat autoimmune thyroid disease which may not have been detected by standard thyroid lab tests. If sarcoidosis were present then excessive use of vitamin D and calcium might increase risk of there being a deficiency of magnesium and potassium.

Babies are made from nutrients not from medications. So discovering a medication that helps break down beta-amyloid protein might be helpful but finding out why the body is producing the folded malfunctioning protein and how to stop their production would be more helpful. – Addition 2/26/2017, a deficiency or defect in the cannabinoid system might be involved. THC and other chemicals found in marijuana helped cause the break down of beta-amyloid placques from Alzheimer’s disease.  [7 http://neurosciencenews.com/thc-amyloid-beta-alzheimers-4598/ ]

Interesting news from the pet food industry – It may be better not to feed cats raw fish more than three times per week because some species, when fresh and unheated, may be a source of an enzyme, thiaminase, which can  cause excessive break down of the B vitamin thiamine. And taurine is frequently added to processed foods for pet cats because heat processing causes destruction of the essential amino acid. [6]

/Disclaimer: This article is for educational or entertainment purposes and is not intended to be used in place of individual medical guidance for humans or cats./

DSC_0531
A catfish perhaps,
and raw, a source of thiaminase;
limit raw fish for cats to three times per week.

 

 

 

Folate is essential and Folic Acid is commonly available

Folate (L-methylfolate or vitamin B9) and Folic Acid:

Food Sources of Folate, the bioactive natural form, include:
  • beans, black eyed peas, green peas,
  • peanuts and other nuts and seeds,
  • whole grains,
  • asparagus, most dark green vegetables,
  • orange juice, citrus fruits.
  • Fortified cereal and rice are sources of folic acid, the supplemental form.
Folate is the natural form; Folic Acid is in supplements & fortified foods.

Folate is the form of the vitamin found in food and is more bioactive.  Folic acid is the form that is commonly available as a supplement and in fortified foods, however it is less bioactive, less able to function until methyl groups are added which requires adequate supplies of vitamin B12. A genetic difference may exist in some individuals that prevent the body from being able to convert the inactive folic acid form into folate, the methylated bioactive form of the vitamin. [More about methylation.]

Symptoms of Folate deficiency include:
  • Deficiency of folate can cause megaloblastic / macrocytic anemia which is characterized by red blood cells that are over-sized and ineffective.  Anemia symptoms include being short of breath and feeling tired and weak.  The symptoms are due to a shortage of normal red blood cells and reduced ability to transport oxygen with each breath.
  • Folate is needed for DNA synthesis and for DNA methylation which may be important for preventing cancerous changes from occurring in the DNA.
  • Lack of folate may increase heart disease risks due to less breakdown of homocysteine. Vitamin B6 and B12 are also necessary, a deficiency of any one of the three might cause an accumulation of homocysteine.
  • Folate is important during pregnancy for fetal development.  Spina bifida and cleft palate are birth defects that may be caused by folate deficiency.
  • Deficiency of several of the B vitamin group can cause changes in the appearance and surface texture of the tongue. B vitamins that can cause changes in the tongue are mentioned in the following excerpt and include “niacin (B3), riboflavin (B2), pyridoxine (B6), folic acid (folate/B9), and vitamin B12”:
  • “Deficiencies of niacin, riboflavin, pyridoxine, folic acid, or vitamin B12,  resulting from poor diet or from the administration of antagonists, may cause a sore, beefy-red tongue without a coat. In the chronic vitamin deficiency state, the tongue may become atrophic and smooth.”                   – “The Tongue – Clinical Methods – NCBI bookshelf  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK236/

  • See the post on Vitamin B6 for more information about how the group of B vitamins work together in energy metabolism and cell growth.
Reference used for food sources & symptoms of Folate deficiency:
Other References used for the food sources of Folate and Folic Acid:

Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and the information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes.

Vitamin B6

Vitamin B6 (pyridoxal, pyridoxal-5-phosphate, (P5P), pyridoxine, and pyridoxamine):

Food Sources of Vitamin B6 include:
  • fortified cereal, barley, buckwheat;
  • avocados, baked potato with the skin;
  • beef, poultry, salmon;
  • bananas, green leafy vegetables;
  • beans, nuts, sunflower and pumpkin seed kernels.
Symptoms of a B6 deficiency may include:
  • A severe deficiency of vitamin B6 may cause seizures;
  • other neurological (nervous system or brain) symptoms affecting mental health may include irritability, confusion, and/or depression;
  • the earliest signs of a B6 deficiency might be observed first in the mouth where the tongue may be swollen and painful and become smooth looking and have a bright magenta color; mouth ulcers and cracks or fissures at the corners of the mouth may also occur;
  • and a weakened immune system may occur with a deficiency of vitamin B6.
  • Three B vitamins, B6, B12 and folate, are all necessary for the breakdown of homocysteine, which at elevated levels may increase risk of heart disease. So deficiency of any one of the three B vitamins, B6, B12 and folate, may be involved with symptoms or a diagnosis of heart disease.

  • Symptoms of PMS (Pre-menstrual Syndrome) and symptoms of prenatal nausea and vomiting may be helped by supplemental B6 intake. This suggests a deficiency may be involved in the underlying cause of the symptoms or that an increased need for the nutrient occurs before menstruation and during pregnancy. All B vitamins are important during pregnancy as they are involved in the growth of new cells and are needed for converting sugar into usable energy.

The skin & GI tract have a rapid cell growth rate which requires energy.
B vitamins are involved in both cell growth & energy metabolism.

B vitamins work together as a group to help breakdown the sugar glucose into a usable form of energy.

Areas of the body that have a short life cycle for cells are the first areas affected by deficiency of B vitamins because new cells need energy to grow and the B vitamin group are also involved in other chemical reactions that are necessary for the growth of new cells. The lining of the intestinal tract can have a cell turnover rate of just one week and the tongue is part of the gastro-intestinal (GI) tract and has a similar quick rate of cell growth.

The skin at the corners of the mouth and the lips in general may also have a slightly quicker rate of cell turnover than other areas of the surface skin. Our outer skin and the lining of the GI-tract are similar and considered part of the same organ system.

“Deficiencies of niacin, riboflavin, pyridoxine, folic acid, or vitamin B12,  resulting from poor diet or from the administration of antagonists, may cause a sore, beefy-red tongue without a coat. In the chronic vitamin deficiency state, the tongue may become atrophic and smooth.”                   – “The Tongue – Clinical Methods – NCBI bookshelf  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK236/

Pyroluria:

Pyroluria may be a genetic problem that causes increased urinary loss of B6 and zinc for some people. For patients with the condition adequate amounts of the nutrient cannot be readily obtained from food sources and large dose supplements are needed on a daily basis of both vitamin B6 and the mineral zinc. The condition is generally not assessed for or treated by the current medical system as it is not easy to diagnose. Anxiety is a primary symptom, migraine headaches and reduced tolerance for stress may also be symptoms. This post of mine has links and sources for more information: http://effectiveselfcare.info/2014/09/22/pyroluria-anxiety-and-deficiency-of-b6-and-zinc

This post by a medical doctor discusses the mental health and other symptoms in more detail. Emily Dickinson and Charles Darwin had similar symptoms. Daily supplements of zinc and B6 and/or the more bioactive form, pyridoxal-5-phosphate, (P5P), can quickly restore more normal health:  http://www.judytsafrirmd.com/pyroluria-mental-health-and-the-immune-system/

Lack of dreaming at night is a symptom of pyroluria likely due to a long term deficiency of vitamin B6. Once treatment with the large dose supplements has been underway for a while it is common for patients to report remembering dreaming at night again. Whether the deficiency of B6 is causing less time to be spent at night in the stage of sleep when dreaming is more likely to occur, or whether it interferes with the ability to remember dreams the next morning, is not known.

Reference used for food sources & symptoms of Vitamin B6 deficiency:
Other References used for the food sources of Vitamin B6:

Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and the information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes.

Niacin

Niacin (vitamin B3, niacinamide, and nicotinic acid):

Food Sources of Niacin include:
  • nutritional yeast;
  • meats, salmon and tuna;
  • beans, green peas, peanuts, and seeds;
  • avocado, mushrooms, green leafy vegetables;
  • grains, nixtamal flour, & fortified cereals;
  • milk, coffee and tea.
Symptoms of Niacin (Vitamin B3) Deficiency:

Digestive symptoms of less severe niacin deficiency may include nausea and vomiting and may also be able to be seen visibly as an unusually bright red tongue. Several B vitamins can cause changes in the appearance of the tongue as the cells all along the digestive tract need to be replaced frequently with new cells. The B vitamins work together as a group and many are essential for the growth of new cells. See the excerpt in the reference section for other B vitamins necessary for maintaining a healthy tongue.

Headache, apathy, memory loss, disorientation, and/or depression may be neurological symptoms that occur if niacin deficiency continues long term. Fatigue may also be a symptom of niacin deficiency.

Severe niacin deficiency is called pellagra. Symptoms of pellagra include skin rashes, (dermatitis), diarrhea, dementia, and eventually death if adequate niacin isn’t provided to the patient.

The condition was discovered in groups of people who lived primarily on a diet of corn or sorghum.  However the condition was not common in Mexico, in Central America, or for some groups of Native Americans. Corn in those areas was first soaked in an alkaline solution of lime or wood ash before being made into a type of flour called nixtamal.  The alkaline soaking method makes more of the grain’s niacin content available for absorption in the human digestive system.

Nixtamal flour is available to the home shopper and might be called tortilla or tamale flour. The ingredient list would include lime or wood ash if the product was made with the alkaline presoaking step.

The amino acid, tryptophan, can be converted to niacin within the body if adequate B6, folate and heme are available (an iron rich enzyme cofactor).

Background history regarding nicotinic acid, niacin, and nicotine:

Nicotinic acid and nicotine from tobacco cigarettes have similar names because they are similar chemicals but are not the same chemical and don’t have the same function within the body. This is a content marketing issue, read more – including the comments in the following link.

A summary: Nicotinic acid is a chemically reasonable name for the form of the nutrient that was initially discovered, but the similarity of the word to nicotine made people fearful when it was first added to foods and food labels as a new nutrient fortification being added to help prevent and treat pellagra. The use of a different form with a name change to “niacin” may have been a move at that time towards a form with a more commercially successful name even though it is not as descriptive of the way the chemical is formed as the name “nicotinic acid.”

Warning – non-harmful “Niacin flush” may occur with Nicotinic acid:

For some people, excessive supplementation with the nicotinic acid form of vitamin B3, but not the niacin form, may cause a temporary non-life-threatening reaction that may include symptoms of itching, a temporary flushing or reddening of the skin, nausea and vomiting. The reaction may be referred to as a “niacin flush.” A holistic practitioner describes the reaction in the following article and mentions that it usually goes away after a week of taking the supplement and that drinking some extra water during the sensation might help ease symptoms. The practitioner suggests that the reaction may be helpful for multiple sclerosis.

Niacinamide is a form of niacin that does not help reduce cholesterol

Niacin can be converted to niacinamide in the body and both forms are available as supplements which could help prevent deficiency symptoms. However niacin may also be helpful with blood lipid (fats) levels. It may help reduce elevated levels of triglycerides which can help prevent high cholesterol levels. Niacinamide is a form that does not affect blood lipid levels and wouldn’t be recommended over the niacin form if the goal is protecting cardiovascular (heart & blood vessel) health. http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-924-niacin%20and%20niacinamide%20vitamin%20b3.aspx?activeingredientid=924&

B vitamins essential for health of the tongue (and Gastrointestinal tract):

Deficiency of several of the B vitamin group can cause changes in the appearance and surface texture of the tongue. B vitamins that can cause changes in the tongue are mentioned in the following excerpt and include “niacin (B3), riboflavin (B2), pyridoxine (B6), folic acid (folate/B9), and vitamin B12”:

  • “Deficiencies of niacin, riboflavin, pyridoxine, folic acid, or vitamin B12,  resulting from poor diet or from the administration of antagonists, may cause a sore, beefy-red tongue without a coat. In the chronic vitamin deficiency state, the tongue may become atrophic and smooth.”                   – “The Tongue – Clinical Methods – NCBI bookshelf  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK236/

  • See the post on Vitamin B6 for more information about how the group of B vitamins work together in energy metabolism and cell growth.
Reference used for food sources & symptoms of Niacin deficiency:
Other References used for the food sources of Niacin:

Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and the information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes.

Thiamin: people with anorexia or alcoholism are more at risk for vitamin B1 deficiency

Thiamin (also called Thiamine or vitamin B1):

Food Sources of Thiamin (vitamin B1) include:
  • fortified flour or rice, whole grains;
  • lean pork, fish, eggs;
  • nutritional yeast;
  • cantaloupe; acorn squash, asparagus, green vegetables;
  • beans, green peas, nuts, sunflower and pumpkin seed kernels & other edible seeds including flax, sesame & chia.
Thiamin or vitamin B1 may have been the first vitamin to be discovered.

Thiamin is also known as vitamin B1. Historically it may have been the first vitamin to be discovered.  Around 2600 BC the symptoms of thiamin deficiency were described in Chinese literature.  Thiamin deficiency, or beriberi as it was commonly called, became a more frequent problem in some communities when white flour and polished rice were first introduced.  Milling brown rice removes thiamin from the grain along with the fibrous outer layer of the grains of rice.

Symptoms of beriberi, vitamin B1/Thiamin deficiency, can include:
  • rapid ‘fluttery’ heart rate;
  • enlarged heart;
  • edema or swelling of the extremities,
  • heart and lungs leading to breathing problems and eventually congestive heart failure; burning painful feet;
  • muscle weakness and pain;
  • Wernicke encephalopathy or Korsakoff psychosis are symptoms that may occur with more severe B1 deficiencies and which can include mental changes.
Deficiency of Thiamin is rare except with severe malnourishment or increased needs:

Chronic alcoholics and anorexic or other malnourished people are more at risk for thiamin deficiency.  Malaria and HIV may increase need for thiamin due to the infected cell’s increased use of the nutrient.  Renal patients on dialysis may need extra thiamin due to increased loss. The nutrient is fairly widely available and deficiencies are not typically found in people of average health with reasonably varied diets.

Reference used for food sources & symptoms of Thiamin deficiency:
Additional Reference used for Food Sources of Thiamin:

Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and the information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes.

Electrolytes are essential, magnesium helps protect brain cells

     Our bodies are like an ocean, not a fresh water lake. Our blood and cell fluid has a balance of salts and proteins that are essential for keeping things flowing and interacting as needed. Salts in our body are called electrolytes and they work in a buddy system.
Sodium and potassium are buddies that chemically can donate one electron for chemical bonds or energy interactions and calcium and magnesium can donate two electrons each. These minerals power nerve signals, muscle contractions and the movement of chemicals across cell membranes. All four are equally essential to have in our diet everyday.• Salt (Sodium chloride) has been a valuable trade commodity in ancient cultures. Seafood and salt mines are good sources.

Potassium is found in all fruits and vegetables.

Calcium is found in hard water, in dairy products, almonds, sesame seeds, beans, greens, canned fish, fortified foods.

Magnesium is found in hard water, beans, nuts, seeds, greens, whole grains, chocolate and a little in most foods.

     Having too much or too little of any of the four essential electrolytes in our blood and body fluid can be life threatening. They work together as teams that balance each other. Salt is not bad for us, we just need potassium in similar amounts. Processed foods tend to be overly salted and low in potassium. If we eat that way occasionally, no big deal, but if we eat that way most days then we may become low in potassium.

We lose electrolytes everyday in sweat and in the urine and feces. Muscle cramps can be a symptom of potassium deficiency and heart attacks can occur with abrupt drops in potassium. Muscle cramps may also be a symptom of magnesium or calcium imbalances.

Sweating a lot can leave us low in sodium and other electrolytes. Heatstroke can be due to excess heat [3] but it may also be due to hyponatremia or low sodium blood levels which can leave you feeling weak, dizzy and confused. Drinking plain water without also having a salty food may leave you feeling sick to your stomach if you are too dehydrated. Having a little salt or salty food first and then sipping the water might feel better when trying to rehydrate after a workout. The stomach controls what it lets into the more fragile intestine. If the stomach fluid is too thin and watery or too concentrated and acidic then the stomach will reject the fluid and cause vomiting. If the body has enough stored fluid and electrolytes then the stomach has systems for drawing in what it needs to digest whatever you eat. If you are dehydrated from excessive sweating then your stomach would not have those extra stores to use.

Magnesium may not be as familiar of a nutrient as calcium but it is just as essential to life. Excessive sweating during sports has been associated with sudden stroke later in the day in young athletes. It has been suggested that a sudden drop in magnesium from sweat losses may be the cause. Magnesium acts as the gate keeper in cell membranes and prevents calcium from flooding in from the blood. Calcium turns things on in the body and magnesium turns them off.

Calcium causes muscle fibers to contract and magnesium allows them to relax again. Calcium activates the energy production in the cell’s mitochondria and too much calcium flooding into a brain cell at once can overwork the cell to the point of cell death.

Glutamate and aspartate are amino acids that also act as brain neurotransmitters and their movement is carefully controlled by the protein channels in our cell membranes. Magnesium keeps the protein channels shut, so a sudden drop in magnesium may also cause stroke due to excessive flooding of brain cells by glutamate or aspartate. It might be better to avoid drinking beverages that contain Nutrasweet (Aspartame contains aspartate) by themselves in sweaty situations. A magnesium containing electrolyte beverage like Glaceau’s “Smart Water” would provide the brain cells with magnesium which is needed to prevent calcium, glutamate and aspartate from entering the cell.

 Sweaty situations call for rehydrating with water, and a potassium rich fruit or vegetable or juice and having a salty snack. Have beans, nuts, sunflower or pumpkin seeds with your salty snack and you have your magnesium losses replaced as well.

Re-hydrating is also important if you are losing fluid in diarrhea or vomit. It’s also worth remembering to hydrate after night sweats or during high fevers. Darker yellow urine is a sign that you are dehydrated. Dry, chapped lips and skin are also symptoms.

No extra money is needed for a fancy bottled beverage when you understand your body’s electrolytes and know which foods and drinks are good sources. Dehydration is a frequent reason that people go to the hospital emergency room but with planning it is a problem that can be prevented.

Thinking about good hydration may help to be more aware of thirst signals. It can be easy to misinterpret thirst as hunger, so sometimes you can save calories and cut back on mindless snacking by trying a drink of water first.

Excerpt: Scientists See Dangers in Energy Drinks, By Jane E. Brody (NY Times, Pub: January 31, 2011) [link]

“The authors noted that “four documented cases of caffeine-associated death have been reported, as well as five separate cases of seizures associated with consumption of energy/power drinks.” Additional reports include an otherwise healthy 28-year-old man who suffered a cardiac arrest after a day of motocross racing; a healthy 18-year-old man who died playing basketball after drinking two cans of Red Bull; and four cases of mania experienced by individuals known to have bipolar disorder.”

/Speculation/ The seizures, cardiac arrest, death after athletics, and mania could all be due to sudden changes in magnesium and potassium levels. The caffeine increases urine volume and urinary magnesium losses and the athletes also lost magnesium in sweat. The protein channels that have inadequate magnesium allow calcium to over-flood cell interiors. The calcium can trigger muscle spasms which may lead to cardiac arrest or stroke. Brain cells would also be vulnerable to over-excitation by calcium or the free amino acids, aspartame and glutamate. Brain cells that are constantly active could be associated with mania or seizures.

We could help prevent brain damage by adequately protecting our cell membranes with more frequent intake of magnesium containing foods and beverages. Seizures, strokes, migraines and mania are related to brain cells getting over stimulated and  the resulting lack of oxygen and energy stores can lead to cell death. The glutamate receptor rich areas of the brain are frequently the most devastated in the brains of sufferers of senile dementia.

 An Easy Solution: put magnesium back in beverages – it is in ground water and it is an essential electrolyte. The U.S. regulated it out in the past and bottlers have been removing it ever since – our intestines are suffering. [water policy history review – a 1920 Water Power Act had to do with hydroelectric water rights more than mineral content. I haven’t found more information about a bottled water act yet, [waterencyclopedia.com]
Every sip of a beverage that does not contain magnesium requires magnesium to be drawn to the intestines and stomach from our stored reserves – which are our bones – our structural support. If we want to stop osteoporosis then we need to be sipping and eating foods with a reasonable quantity of magnesium throughout the day. Any time we consume foods or fluids that have an electrolyte content that doesn’t match the concentration that is normal for our body requires our bodies take nutrients out of the reserves stored within our bones, those reserves run out eventually, leaving bones brittle from osteoporosis.

/Disclosure: This information is provided for educational purposes and is not intended to provide individual health care. Please see a health professional for individualized health care./