Low levels of zinc hikes risk of autism

Researchers have found that large numbers of children with autism and related conditions such as Asperger’s syndrome were deficient in the mineral, which is found in meat, bread and dairy products, the ‘Daily Mail’ reported. In their study, the researchers in Tokyo measured levels of zinc in the hair of almost 2,000 children with autism and related conditions. This showed a “considerable association” with zinc deficiency, especially in the youngest children.

Overall, almost a third of the youngsters were deficient in zinc. The lowest levels were seen amongst the youngest children, with almost half of the boys and more than half of the girls aged up to the age of three judged to be deficient.
Some cases were severe, with one two-year-old boy having just one twelfth of the expected amount, according to findings published in the ‘Scientific Reports’ journal.

The researchers said it seems that infants need more zinc for growth and development than older children and that that lack of zinc early in life may be involved in the development of autism. However, British experts said that much more research is needed. And they stressed that linking something with a disease does not necessarily mean it caused it.

Prof Dorothy Bishop of the University of Oxford said: “If zinc deficiency is confirmed in future research, then it remains unclear whether this is a cause of autism, or rather reflective of dietary abnormalities.”

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