Low zinc levels linked to higher risk of autism, finds new study

Children who don't get enough zinc in their diets may be at a higher risk of developing autism, according to new research

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A recent study in Tokyo has revealed that children who have low levels of zinc may have more chance of developing autism, although British experts are sceptical about the findings.

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The study, in which researchers measured the levels of zinc in the hair of children who had autism and related conditions, such as Asperger’s syndrome, found that a third of the 2,000 youngsters studied were deficient in zinc.

The lowest levels of zinc were seen in the youngest children, with almost half of the boys and more than half of the girls aged 3 and under labelled deficient in the mineral, according to the journal of Scientific Reports.

Researchers have suggested that children need more zinc, which can be found in meat, bread and dairy products, for growth and development. They added that a lack of zinc in this stage could relate to the development of autism.

The study aimed to provide hope for the treatment and prevention of autism, yet many British specialists feel that more research needs to be conducted.

“If zinc deficiency is confirmed in future research, then it remain unclear whether this is a cause of autism, or rather reflective of dietary abnormalities. Many children with autism will eat only a restricted range of foods and some have a habit of chewing on inedible objects,” says Professor Dorothy Bishop, of the University of Oxford.

“It’s just as bad to have too much zinc as too little. If you take supplements, you could very well err on the side of poisoning,” Uta Frith, of University College London told The Daily Mail.

As with many of these studies, a well-balanced, healthy diet seems to be the best idea.

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