What is Autism?
Autism is a brain development disorder characterised by socially
detached behaviour, impairment of language and restricted
and repetitive behaviour. Its occurrence has surged in recent
years and one possible explanation for the neuro-developmental
problems seen in autistic individuals is early exposure to
toxins or a virus which over-stimulates an immune response.
It is highly likely that this autoimmune response interferes
with the development of myelin – the protective fatty acid
layer which protects our nerves through the production of
auto-antibodies directly targeted to myelin. If myelin in
the brain doesn"t develop properly, nerve fibers aren’t
able to function properly.
How fatty acids help
Fatty acids offer two principal benefits in alleviating the
symptoms of autism. The first relates to the insulating myelin
sheath which protects important nerve fibres, which are crucial
for maintaining efficient signalling in the brain. When electrical
signals slow down, brain function can become impaired. By
supplementing the diet with the omega-3 fatty acid EPA, it
helps to rebuild the protective fatty acid layer surround
nerve fibres, to allow efficient signalling.
Secondly, autistic children tend to have elevated levels of
the neurotransmitter serotonin, high levels of which are associated
with an overactive immune system and excess inflammation.
EPA directly promotes the production of anti-inflammatory
leukotrienes to counteract inflammatory leukotrienes which
target areas of inflammation and help to restore balance.
By providing EPA without DHA (known to directly compete with
the eicosanoids for enzymes), this allows the body to convert
the EPA into DHA as and when the body needs it, without interfering
with the healthy production of anti-inflammatory eicosanoids.