Autism on the Rise, but Cholesterol May Help: Studies

Experts say Autism is on the rise but an Ohio State study shows increasing cholesterol may ease symptoms for some children.

A report in the American journal of Psychiatry said that researchers believe the number of children who have autism is much higher than previously believed.

In the United States, the centers for Disease control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that Autism affects about 1 in 110 children. That estimate is based on studies of select populations around the country.

In the new study, about 55,000 children in a metropolitan community of Seoul, Korea were studied.

The finding: 1 out of 38 children in this group were found to have some form of Autism spectrum Disorder (ASD).

The researchers said, since they felt this population was representative not only of Korea but of many other developed nations, current estimates of the prevalence of Autism may be too low. Further studies in the United States are ongoing.

One of those studies, from Ohio State University medical center, suggested that adding cholesterol to some children’s diets may decrease the symptoms of Autism

"It’s possible that too low of a cholesterol may be one of the causes of autism in a subgroup of children with autism," according to the lead author, Dr. Eugene Arnold.

That theory comes from surveys, which suggested that high fat diets might relieve some of the symptoms of autism in some children; and from the knowledge that fat is necessary for brain and nervous system development.

Dr. Arnold added two packets of pure cholesterol to study subjects’ diets.

Angela Barker, whose daughter Rose was in the study said, "Personally it changed our lives; it was exactly what she needed for development."

While Rose’s results were very encouraging, Arnold and other researchers caution that cholesterol might be only one factor, and, even if it is, it may only help a small percentage of children.

Arnold is now expanding his study with the National Institutes of Health in the hopes that long-term research will help us learn whose lives might be changed by a diet like Rose’s.

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