Autism spectrum disorder is currently on the rise and has been for some time, not only in Australia but around the world. Research has been developing in the field of biochemistry, genetics and nutrition and is showing an increase in focus on the physiological abnormalities that are associated with this disorder including mitochondrial dysfunction, inflammation and oxidative stress, and immune dysfunction. The tight network of regulatory systems in our body are heavily influenced by nutrition and lifestyle factors.

Studies have shown that a decrease in glutathione levels (the body’s master antioxidant) is present in patients with ASD compared with controls. Oxidative stress, as a result of poor antioxidant defence systems, may lead to mitochondrial dysfunction in individuals. Mitochondria are the powerhouse of the cell involved in energy production and metabolism. In a recent study, out of the 112 individuals involved, only 21% had a genetic abnormality that lead to the mitochondrial dysfunction found. This leads us to question nutrition and lifestyle influences on inflammation, nervous system and immune system health in relation to this growing incidence of ASD.

Considering a whole foods, nutrient dense diet rich in dark leafy green vegetables, essential fatty acids and complete protein is a wonderful place to start for the population here in Australia and around the world. Seeking professional advice from a qualified nutritionist may assist in individualising plans for patients and their families.

Source: (Rossignol & Frye, 2014)