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./

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./