25 Aug


What’s the relationship? What’s the effect on autism traits?

By Lirio S. Covey, Ph.D.

Recent studies have shown an association between dyslipidemia (abnormally high levels of lipids such as cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood) and autism. Dyslipidemia can be determined by blood tests; it is medically treatable.

1. In a study conducted at Boston’s Children’s Hospital in Massachusetts ( 2.75 million people, 25,514 of whom were children with autism), blood lipid profiles, such as triglyceride levels, were higher in children with autism, regardless (controlled for) of age, medication, sex, or metabolic conditions such as obesity or diabetes.

2. In health care claims of 34 million people across the United States, 6.6 percent of 80,714 autistic persons had dyslipidemia.

3. In the general population, the estimated proportion of children with autism is 1-2%. In a study of parents with a history of dyslipidemia, 16% of them had a greater risk of having autistic children.

What questions concerning autism do these findings raise?

1. Are high lipid levels (cholesterol or triglycerides) risk factors for autism? If so, this association would mark the presence of a potential biological indicator of autism risk.

2. Thus far, there has been no specific biological autism risk factor (with the exception of genes whose relation to autism risk has been widely observed but knowledge of which specific genes or combination of genes are involved remains to be determined). High lipid levels would constitute an additional diagnostic marker of the presence of autism, beyond the established clinically observable signs.

3. Because only a subgroup of persons with autism will demonstrate high lipid levels, would elevated lipid levels identify a particular subtype of autism? This could lead to specific and possibly more targeted, personalized, and efficacious intervention approaches.

4. What neuronal mechanisms related to autism are affected by high lipid levels?

5. Will normalizing elevated lipid levels be therapeutic towards improving behavioral autism traits that impair the day-to-day functioning of autistic individuals?

6. Will normalizing elevated lipid levels reduce premature mortality in persons with autism?

7. Will administering lipid-lowering medications, such as statins, reduce premature mortality in persons with autism?

Reference: Ekaterina Pesheva. Autism-Cholesterol Link. New research reveals a subtype of autism associated with lipid abnormalities. August 17, 2020. Research.

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