Scientists at the University of Western Ontario, responding to parents' reports of significant improvement in behavior of their autistic children after elimination of wheat and dairy products from their diets, have conducted a lab study using rats which appears to confirm an autism gut-brain connection.
Dr. Derrick MacFabe, director of the UWO research group reported to CBC that the research focused on propionic acid, a short chain fatty acid found in the gut and in bread and dairy products. When the compound was administered to rat's brains:
"They immediately engaged in bouts of repetitive behaviour, hyperactivity and impaired social behaviours which had close similarity to what parents are seeing with autism,"
The rat's brains were later examined and found to contain inflammatory processes similar to those in the brains of autistic children. Screening studies looking at effects of dietary changes in the general population are now under way with MacFabe's team at UWO, Queen's University and Harvard University.
The UWO study reported today will have to be followed up on before conclusions can be drawn. The study itself though is quite revolutionary in so far as it was prompted by observations made by parents of autistic children. Parents' observations of their autistic children are often disregarded or discounted and the greatest long term value of this study may turn out to be that the research team took parents' reports into account as a guide to conducting research into potential causes of autism.