New research shows mercury and lead levels in blood may be tied to processed food diet and ADHD and Autism
New recommendations published for diagnosing and treating ADHD and Autism
Big Island of Hawai'i, US — Nearly 13% of all boys in the U.S. have been diagnosed with ADHD. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates the autism prevalence in 8-year-old children is now 1 in 59 children although the true number of children afflicted with autism across all age groups remains unknown.
In a recent review, scientists from the Food Ingredient and Health Research Institute, Mayo Clinic and Duquesne University, report there is now convincing evidence to suggest mercury and lead exposures are significant facdtors in the etiology of autism and ADHD. Dozens of studies have been published showing children with ADHD and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) have elevated levels of heavy metals in their blood compared to their peers without symptoms. Lead is consistently found in all children with ADHD and lead and mercury are found consistently in all children with ASD. These heavy metal exposures impact gene behavior and compromise a child's ability to metabolize and excrete organophosphate pesticide residues. Organophosphate pesticide exposures have previously been linked to the development of both ADHD and ASD.
The CDC uses a 5 ug/dL reference value for blood lead levels to identify children who have been exposed to lead. However, several studies indicate symptoms of ADHD are often found in children with lower levels of lead. The CDC currently has no reference value for blood mercury levels to identify children at risk of autism.
Dr. Skip Kingston at Duquesnes University stated, "this research is important because the accumulating body of scientific literature over the past two decades suggest measured heavy metal levels and other xenobiotics in blood are crucial factors that trigger the onset of ADHD and autism. By testing children early with accurate testing methods, we can take measures to reduce these exposures and switch the trajectory of children at risk. We have the tools to address these disorders through proper health assessment and early intervention. "
Evidence suggests ultra-processed food consumption may be a source of heavy metal exposure not often considered, especially in the case of inorganic mercury and lead. The literature indicates unhealthy diet high in processed food with ingredients with allowable mercury and lead residues, hydrogenated fats, sugar sweetened beverages, vegetable oils, processed meats and refined grains remains a significant factor in the development of symptoms associated with ASD and ADHD.
Dr. Steven Gilbert, leading toxicologist, urges healthcare providers "to consider helping parents change their child's diet to reduce the heavy metal exposures that may impact child behaviors and brain function. Multiple studies now show that changing a child's diet can alleviate the symptoms associated with ADHD and ASD. Switching to a healthy diet that reduces heavy metal exposures and boosts PON1 gene activity may improve a child's behaviors and overall health status. The PON1 gene is suppressed by heavy metal exposures, and this impacts a child ability to metabolize and excrete the organophosphate pesticide residues found throughout the U.S. food supply. Previous studies have found organophosphate pesticide exposures can impact brain development and child behaviors. The most important treatment is prevention."
Dr. Renee Dufault, the first author of the review, urges Congress to act now by passing a law to mandate warning labels on foods that contain ingredients with allowable heavy metal residues. Examples of such food ingredients include yellow #5, yellow #6, red #40, caramel, titanium dioxide, calcium chloride, and sodium benzoate. There are numerous other food ingredients in the food supply with allowable heavy metal residues according to Dr. Dufault, a former FDA research who retired in 2008 to publish findings of mercury residues in high fructose corn syrup.
The new article was published this month and is indexed by PubMed. The authors provide guidance for detecting heavy metal exposures in the blood of children suspected of having an autism or ADHD diagnosis. Studies indicate such testing may be done in conjunction with behavior checklists and dietary changes. The paper provides guidance on the dietary changes needed to reduce exposures to these heavy metals in the blood of children with ADHD and autism which may correlate with their behavior patterns.
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The Food Ingredient and Health Research Institute (FIHRI) is a non-profit organization devoted entirely to food ingredient safety, education, and research. foodingredient.info
Renee J. Dufault, DHEd, Food Ingredient and Health Research Institute
Lead Author Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Mesay Mulugeta Wolle, PhD, United States Food and Drug Administration
Skip Kingston, PhD, Duquesne University
Steven Gilbert, PhD, Institute of Neurotoxicology and Neurological Disorders
Joseph Murray, MD, Mayo Clinic