Is “Non-Toxic” Nail Polish Really Non-Toxic? Maybe Not, Study Shows

Nail polishes have been linked to birth defects, thyroid problems, obesity, cancer, and allergic reactions. That’s why many people specifically shop for polishes labeled “non-toxic.” But as past research shows, even nail polishes marketed as non-toxic may contain chemicals that are harmful to your health. [1]

Study co-author Anna Young, a doctoral student at Harvard University, said: [2]

“It’s sort of like playing a game of chemical Whac-A-Mole, where 1 toxic chemical is removed and you end up chasing down the next potentially harmful chemical substituted in.”

It’s not just the nail polish industry that does this; it’s also commonplace in the pesticide and plastics industry.

Supposedly non-toxic nail polishes appeared on the market in the early 2000’s, when many companies began labeling products “3-free.” The phrase signifies that the product is free of:

  • Dibutyl phthalate, a plasticizer used to enhance a polish’s texture and function. It has been linked to reproductive and developmental problems.
  • Toluene, a known nervous system disruptor.
  • Formaldehyde, a carcinogen.

Some nail polish companies took things several steps further by removing even more chemicals, labeling their products “5-free,” “10-free,” and even “13-free.” This, however, does little to educate buyers about which chemicals have been removed and which chemicals have replaced them. That is what Young and her colleagues set out to find.

40 Nail Polishes Tested

For the study, the team purchased and tested the contents of 40 nail polishes from 12 different brands, labeled 3-free all the way up to 13-free.

The study didn’t name the brands, but 2 of the tested brands made up a combined 15% of the nail polish market.

Young said:

“We found that the meaning of these claims isn’t standardized across brands, and there’s no clear information on whether these nail polishes are actually less toxic. Sometimes, when 1 known harmful chemical was removed, the polish instead contained another similar chemical that may be just as toxic.”

Most of the 5-free polishes lacked the same handful of ingredients; however, Young and her team found far less consistency among polishes labeled 10-free and above. The brands varied in how they adhered to the claims on their labels.

None of the samples were found to contain dibutyl phthalate. But polishes with a range of labels tested positive for at least 1 of 2 other plasticizers linked with health problems. One polish was found to contain one of the chemicals its label claimed to exclude.

(Click for larger version.) Figure 1. Product label definitions for investigated nail polish product lines. Note: The blue color represents the ingredients that are removed from the product line, according to the label. Potential plasticizer ingredients are underlined. Nonplasticizer ingredients are not underlined. No. of nail polish brands refers to the number of brands that had a nail polish product line with that particular product label. *These two ingredients were reported to count as one exclusion. **Fragrances can contain plasticizer chemicals.

Just because a nail polish claims to exclude multiple substances, that doesn’t mean it’s safer than one that makes no such claims.

The findings applied to some of the most popular nail polish brands in the industry. Though the samples weren’t representative of the entire nail polish market, Young said the findings are relevant to anyone who likes to add a colorful hue to their nails.

Amusingly, some of the nail polishes the Harvard researchers analyzed excluded ingredients that pose no health risks at all, such as gluten, wheat, fat, and “animal-derived ingredients.” You only have to worry about those if you plan on drinking your nail polish. [1]

(Click for larger version.) Figure 2. Side-by-side comparison of concentrations (?g/g) of TPHP (top) vs DEHP (bottom) for 40 nail polish samples.

It’s not clear how much exposure it takes to affect a person’s health, but nail salon employees, in particular, should be concerned about the potential health risks of their job. [2]

Young said:

“This is especially important for the over 400,000 nail salon workers in the U.S. who could be exposed on a daily basis, for many years, to chemicals that have been linked to health effects on fertility, the reproductive system, fetal development, thyroid function, and possibly even obesity or cancer.”

Young and her fellow authors said that nail polish makers should focus more on excluding entire classes of ingredients – including phthalates and organophosphates – rather than individual compounds. [1]

They wrote:

“Then, certified labels could be useful tools for educating nail polish users, nail salon owners, and nail salon workers about toxic chemicals and how to make best purchasing decisions.”

The study was published in 2018 in the journal Environmental Science and Technology – so hopefully things have changed since then. Either way, be reminded that product labels and claims aren’t always so truthful or accurate.

Sources:

[1] Health

[2] Time

A Broccoli Anti-Aging Enzyme may Hold the Fountain of Youth

If you’re looking to turn back the hands of time, look no further than broccoli. Love it or hate it, this common cruciferous veggie contains a natural compound called nicotinamide mononucleotide, which has been shown to have a potent anti-aging effect on mice that “could be translated to humans.” [1]

A team of researchers from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis write in Cell Metabolism that nicotinamide mononucleotide (NMN) made the cells of lab mice act younger than they were when it was added to the rodents’ drinking water. NMN is an enzyme that plays a key role in energy metabolism, and it’s found in broccoli.

NMN boosted the mice’s metabolism. They gained less age-related weight, improved their eyesight, and improved their blood sugar levels. The mice even avoided some of the genetic changes associated with aging.

The study didn’t track how long the furry little critters survived, but at least they lived their lives healthily. One can only assume they outlived mice that weren’t given NMN.

If your knee-jerk reaction to broccoli is to dry-heave, fear not: NMN is also found in other vegetables, including cucumbers, cabbage, and edamame.

Nicotinamide Mononucleotide Could Benefit Humans Too

What’s more, the benefits associated with the enzyme likely apply to humans, according to Dr. Shin-Ichiro Imai, professor of developmental biology and medicine at Washington University and senior author of the paper.

In fact, Imai is so encouraged by the results that he’s launching an early study on people, using NMN supplements in pill form.

He explained:

“If you do the math, I wouldn’t say it’s impossible entirely but probably very difficult to get the whole amount [you need] simply from natural foods.

It’s clear that in humans and in rodents, we lose energy with age. We are losing the enzyme NMN. But if we can bypass that process by adding NMN, we can make energy again. These results provide a very important foundation for the human studies.” [2]

Related: Could Broccoli Protect Against Radiation Sickness?

Other Reasons to Make Friends with Broccoli

If you’re not overly concerned about drinking from (or nibbling on) the fountain of youth, there are plenty of other reasons to chow down on broccoli. For example, broccoli’s ability to lower blood sugar makes it a great food option for people who have diabetes.

Broccoli has also been shown to cut the risk of cardiovascular disease and promote heart health by preventing inflammation and atherosclerosis in the arteries. Additionally, research has found that broccoli has the ability to help to prevent cancer, including leukemia.

It’s worth throwing a handful of broccoli (and therefore nicotinamide mononucleotide) on your salad, or, if that idea turns you off, pulverize some into a hearty soup!

Additional Sources:

[1] New York Daily News

[2] Time

ScienceDaily

Fat-Shaming Doesn’t Work and Can Increase Health Risks

If you think harping on someone about their weight will convince them to drop some pounds, you couldn’t be more wrong. Not only does it not work, but it may also raise their risk for heart disease and other health problems.

As someone who has battled the bulge, it seems ridiculous to me that anyone would even think that shaming an obese person would have any positive effect. And as someone who has counseled people in 12-step recovery, I can tell you that pressuring someone or making fun of someone with a weight problem – which is often a sign of an eating problem – only makes things worse.

If someone is burying their problems in food, harping on it only makes them withdraw even more into food.

To me, it’s obvious. But plenty of people – too many people – think fat-shaming is effective.

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine in Philadelphia found that overweight women who believe negative messages about their bodies – called “weight-bias internalization” – had higher rates of metabolic syndrome, a combination of health problems that increase the risk for heart disease and diabetes.

Dr. Rebecca Puhl, deputy director for the Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity said that the increased risk shows that weight stigma and fat-shaming “go much deeper than the inappropriate remarks or hurt feelings.” [1]

Overweight and obese people are often viewed as lazy, unattractive, incompetent, and lacking willpower. That doesn’t give heavy people a sense of motivation and confidence; it leaves them feeling hopeless and stigmatized. Depressed, really. And we know that depression can make you physically sick.

Published in the journal Obesity, the study suggests that it’s not just the stigmatizing, but also the level of a person’s reaction to fat-shaming, that can cause health woes.

The Research

Researchers asked 159 adults how much they devalued and blamed themselves when they were stigmatized for their weight. The team also looked at how often metabolic syndrome was diagnosed among the participants.

In all, 51 of the participants met the criteria for metabolic syndrome. Those who felt the most devalued and had the highest levels of self-blame were approximately 46% more likely to have metabolic syndrome. Those participants were also found to be 6 times as likely to have high triglycerides. [1], [2]

People with the highest levels of internalizing devaluation and self-blame – in other words, they really took those nasty words and stereotypes to heart – had 3 times the risk of metabolic syndrome, compared with the lowest-level group.

The study lends support to earlier research, said Dr. Scott Kahan, director of the National Center for Weight and Wellness in Washington, D.C. He said:

“Numerous studies have shown that experiencing weight stigma increases stress hormones, blood pressure, inflammation and ultimately increases the risk of several diseases, including diabetes and heart disease.” [1]

For example, studies have shown that being fat-shamed can cause increased inflammation and stress-hormone levels in the body. People who dislike themselves also have a harder time exercising and eating healthy. [2]

All of that “poking fun” at obese people has also been linked to binge eating, as I mentioned, and premature death.

Rebecca L. Pearl, PhD, said:

“There is a misconception that sometimes a little bit of stigma is necessary to motivate people to lose weight. But time and time again, research shows that this is just not the case.” [2]

So, what does all of this mean? Firstly, that you have to love yourself before you can make positive changes for your health. And secondly, it’s not OK to shame overweight people. And if you’re one of the people being stigmatized for your weight, the problem lies with the person stigmatizing you not you!

Pearl added:

“People with obesity are portrayed in negative ways in the media; there’s bullying at school and on social networks; people even feel judged by family members or in health-care settings.

Rather than blaming and shaming people and being dismissive of their struggle, we need to work collaboratively to set goals to improve health behaviors.” [2]

You Should Still Try to Make Improvements for Your Health

Now, none of this is to say that if you’re overweight or obese, you should stay that way just because you have a positive self-image. Excess weight isn’t healthy. Even if you don’t have health problems now, chances are if you don’t lose weight, you’ll develop them in the future.

If you struggle with your weight and struggle with how you feel about yourself, set small, attainable goals to help you shed the pounds. Give yourself reasons to pat yourself on the back and tangible successes to encourage you along the way.

Sources:

[1] HealthDay

[2] Health

Study: How Magnesium Supplementation Could Help with Depression

Sadly, depression is a common mental health condition that affects millions of people in Australia and around the world. However, there are many natural therapies for depression that give you back your power, as they are more preventive in nature and help your body to heal itself. One of these natural solutions for depression may be magnesium, as pointed out in recent research.

This study involved 126 men and women who suffered from mild to moderate depression. Sixty-two were given a supplement containing 248mg of magnesium (as magnesium chloride, not the best supplemental form) for 6 weeks, and then spent 6 weeks with no supplementation. The others first spent 6 weeks taking no magnesium, and then swapped with the first group for the second half.

All volunteers were given questionnaires to evaluate their depression and anxiety at the start of the study and every 2 weeks during treatment.

During supplementation, depression and anxiety scores improved significantly, and participants were less likely to suffer from headaches. During the control period, however, depression scores did not change and anxiety worsened.

As their symptoms showed improvement in 2 weeks, magnesium could be a rapid-acting remedy for mild and moderate depression, while offering a wide range of side benefits. And if you are worried about negative social attitudes towards depression, magnesium is indicated for so many health complaints that a supplement implies nothing.

So, Why? What Does Magnesium Do?

From energy production to the synthesis of neurotransmitters that control mood, magnesium is involved in over 300 biochemical reactions in the body. If you are deficient, and many people are, then these chemical reactions are limited.

Of course, magnesium is not the only nutrient that we need to make neurotransmitters. B vitamins, particularly B12, folate (B9), B6, and niacin (B3), are essential co-factors in neurotransmitter production.

Deficiencies do not just affect mood, but overall brain function and memory.

A balance of omega-3 and -6 essential fatty acids is also important, as they are a part of nerve cell membranes and play a role in communication between cells. Impaired communication affects things like mood, memory and function in general.

Vitamin D deficiency is another common problem, which can contribute to depression by altering gene expression and the ability to control inflammation.

Overall, the ‘chemical imbalance’ is more complex than conventional medicine tells you, and we have far more control over it too.


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Cultures Around the World Show Us How Life Purpose Fuels Longevity

We know instinctively that meaning and purpose are necessary in order to live a fulfilling life, with those of us in a career we love often held in high regard. But regardless of how passionate you may be about your career, we all need a hobby – an interest outside of work that we truly love to do. The benefits of purpose and hobbies, however, go beyond quality of life.

Japanese culture has a concept called ikigai, which roughly translates to “purpose in life.” Ikigai has traditionally been associated with health and longevity. One study on over 4000 adults set out to determine if this theory was true.

All participants were over 65, with:

  • More than 1800 identified as at high risk of death
  • More than 1200 at high risk of losing ability to perform activities of daily living (ADLs)
  • More than 1100 at risk of losing their ability to perform instrumental ADLs.

Data from February 2011 to November 2014 was used, which can be a long time when it comes to age-related disability. Compared to people who had both hobbies and an ikigai, having neither of these was associated with double the risk of mortality, close to triple the risk of losing ADL abilities, and almost double the risk of losing IADL abilities!

Therefore, hobbies and ikigai were linked to increased longevity and healthy life expectancy in older adults.

This was not the only study that found a link between purpose in life and longevity. Another study on 6000 adults with a 14-year follow-up time found that people who initially reported a strong purpose in life had a 15% lower risk of dying from any cause.

Other research found that those who described clear goals and purpose lived both longer and better than those who did not. In fact, other “Blue Zone” cultures (areas with a high prevalence of centenarians) besides the Okinawans of Japan value purpose, with the Nicoyan (Costa Rica) people calling it plan de vida.

Longevity Secrets: 6 Reasons Okinawans Live to Be Older than 100

How to Find Your Own Ikigai

So how can you find your own iikigai, or plan de vida, if you haven’t already? A great way to start is by doing an internal inventory.

Take a piece of paper, and for 20-30 minutes think of all your ideals, principles, standards, and morals, then think of your physical, mental, and emotional talents, strengths, and abilities.

It can take a while, maybe even a couple of attempts, to get an idea of what you really want, but you know you’re getting close if anything brings out a strong emotional reaction. And then…put your skills into action!

It’s also important to build relationships with people who can help you achieve your goals. Overall, longevity is for everyone, and it turns out that some of the best ways to extend your life also improve its quality.


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Anorexia May Be Genetic, Not Just a Mental Health Issue

For the first time, scientists have located a genetic variant for anorexia nervosa – an eating disorder that until now was believed to be entirely psychiatric in nature. Genetic variation refers to the variation in the DNA sequence in the human genome. [1]

Researchers at King’s College London, the University of North Carolina, and Stanford University found that people with anorexia had a genetic variant on chromosome 12, but those without the disorder did not. This chromosome has been associated with type 1 diabetes and autoimmune disorders.

The finding could lead to new or repurposed treatments for anorexia. Currently, anorexia is treated with cognitive analytic therapy (CAT), cognitive behavior therapy (CBT), interpersonal therapy (IPT), focal psychodynamic therapy, and family therapy. [1] [2]

It also sadly means that anorexia patients could pass the disease to their children. [3]

Source: Office on Women’s Health

Prior to the study, anorexia nervosa was thought to be fueled by a combination of physical, social, and environmental triggers, including anxiety, depression, and the West’s obsession with thinness and outward appearance. [3]

Teasing Out the Genetic Connection

For the research, the scientists compared the genetic code of 3,495 individuals with anorexia to that of 10,982 healthy people. [2]

The team found faulty genes in over half of the anorexic patients they analyzed – genes that are associated with neuroticism, schizophrenia, and metabolism.

Professor Cynthia Bulik, of the University of North Carolina, said:

“Anorexia nervosa was significantly genetically correlated with neuroticism and schizophrenia, supporting the idea that anorexia is indeed a psychiatric illness.” [2]

However, Bulik added:

“We identified one genome-wide significant locus for anorexia nervosa on chromosome 12, in a region previously shown to be associated with type I diabetes and autoimmune disorders.

We also calculated genetic correlations — the extent to which various traits and disorders are caused by the same genes. Anorexia nervosa was significantly genetically correlated with neuroticism and schizophrenia, supporting the idea that anorexia is indeed a psychiatric illness.

But, unexpectedly, we also found strong genetic correlations with various metabolic features including body composition (BMI) and insulin-glucose metabolism. This finding encourages us to look more deeply at how metabolic factors increase the risk for anorexia nervosa.” [2]

The researchers are continuing to increase their sample sizes and view the outcome of the study as the beginning of genomic discovery in anorexia nervosa.

Sources:

[1] The Huffington Post

[2] Psych Central

[3] The Telegraph

Smith College


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LED Street Lights Could Be Harmful to Your Health

LED street lights are so hazardous to people’s health that the American Medical Association (AMA) has adopted an official policy about them.

Adopted unanimously at the AMA’s annual meeting in Chicago on June 14, 2016, the policy comes in response to the growing number of LED street lights in the country. An association committee issued guidelines on how communities can choose LED streetlights “to minimize potential harmful human health and environmental effects.”

Long-lasting LED lights are quickly replacing existing streetlights because they save municipalities money on energy and maintenance. But the AMA’s stance reflects the importance of properly designing new technologies and the tight link between light and human health.

In the statement, the AMA recommends that outdoor lighting at night, especially street lights, should have a color temperature (CT) no greater than 3,000 Kelvin (K). A light’s CT is a measure of the spectral content of light from a source – how much blue, green, yellow, and red there is in it. A higher CT rating usually means a light contains more blue content, which makes the light appear whiter. [1]

Bright LED street lights have been shown to make people feel safer. They also make it easier for police to distinguish the colors of the cars they are chasing. [2]

This Lights Comes with Risk

But blue light has a dark side. Research suggests that blue light can prevent people from sleeping, or make them sleep poorly, because it throws off the body’s circadian rhythm. This is one of the problems the AMA sites in its statement.

In addition to street lights, blue light also emanates from cell phones, computers, tablets, and other electronic devices. This is why so many doctors and health experts recommend never using these gadgets at bedtime.

According to researchers at Harvard, blue light is useful during the day because it boosts attention, reaction times, and mood. But blue light also suppresses the secretion of melatonin, a hormone secreted by the brain that makes people feel sleepy at night.

Melatonin boosts the immune system, and is known to have anti-aging properties, as well.

Green light also suppresses the secretion of melatonin, but blue light suppresses it for about twice as long and was shown in studies to shift circadian rhythms by twice as much (3 hours versus 1.5 hours).

A white LED light at CT 4,000 K or 5,000 K contains a high level of short-wavelength light blue. Many cities, including Seattle and New York City, have chosen these CT-count lights to retrofit their street lighting.

The CT count of 4,000K or 5,000K in LED lights is significantly higher than the CT count of incandescent bulbs, which may have a CT of 2,400K.

But many people have started complaining about the harshness of these lights, and this is the other problem the AMA refers to in the statement. In Davis, California, for example, residents have demanded a complete replacement of the high color temperature LED street lights.

The new “white” LED lights come with bothersome glare that can cause discomfort in the eyes. The light concentration and blue light in white LED’s cause pupillary constriction in the eyes. Blue light scatters more in the eye than the longer wavelengths of yellow and red, and sufficient levels can damage the retina. 

The AMA says in the statement:

“The detrimental effects of high-intensity LED lighting are not limited to humans. Excessive outdoor lighting disrupts many species that need a dark environment. For instance, poorly designed LED lighting disorients some bird, insect, turtle and fish species, and U.S. national parks have adopted optimal lighting designs and practices that minimize the effects of light pollution on the environment….

“The AMA recommends an intensity threshold for optimal LED lighting that minimizes blue-rich light. The AMA also recommends all LED lighting should be properly shielded to minimize glare and detrimental human health and environmental effects, and consideration should be given to utilize the ability of LED lighting to be dimmed for off-peak time periods.”

Dr. Maya Babu, an AMA board member, also says in the statement:

“Despite the energy efficiency benefits, some LED lights are harmful when used as street lighting.”

Sources:

[1] The Conversation

[2] Treehugger


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Does Aging Have an ‘End Point?’ People Younger than Ever

Usually when we hear about life expectancy rising and death rates falling, the good news is accompanied by handwringing about living in a “greying world” and a supposedly increasing proportion of people who must depend on others for health reasons. But times are changing, as life at certain age groups is not what it was even one generation ago.

Who would have thought that this could be a 51 year old woman’s life: teaching yoga at a hip hotel and club; sharing clothes and yoga challenges with her 19 year old daughter; and is in love with travelling? Such is the life of Polly Kemp, and it’s becoming increasingly common.

Polly says that when she hears the term middle-aged, “I have to stop and think, ‘Is this meant to be me?’ I don’t polish silver or plan menus, and I’m not interested in housework. I am also spontaneous and I don’t think that’s a quality traditionally associated with middle age.’”

Even the author of the article adds that 40 years ago, she would have pictured her 53 year old self as having much shorter, greyer hair, and wearing “frocks and face powder” instead of jeans and CC cream.

Polly, here with daughter Iggy, embraces an age-defying lifestyle CREDIT: RICK PUSHINSKY

It Isn’t Just These 2 Women, Either

In a survey of over 500 women performed by the UK Telegraph:

  • 96% of women over 40 do not consider themselves to be “middle-aged”
  • 90% said they had a younger attitude than their mothers at the same age
  • 84% used products and services aimed at younger women
  • Almost 66% said they felt as vibrant and young as they ever had.

Unfortunately, the media hasn’t caught up to these changes, choosing to hold onto the old ways. Women over 40, 50, 60, and sometimes even older are no longer confining their lives to, as the Telegraph describes, “lawnmowers and Rotary Clubs, cheese and wine parties, elastic waists, river cruises and walking tours of Madeira.”

I myself could not imagine my friends of those ages living in such a restricted way!

The “ageless generation”, also referred to as “perennials,” is also gaining ground in a literal sense. As far back as 1939, British statisticians Major Greenwood and J.O. Irwin found that aging seems to stop at around 90! Even they were confused, stating that: “At first sight this must seem a preposterous speculation.”

Not only did their findings seem counterintuitive, but 1939 was also a bad year to attempt making scientific history because of other world events. Much more recently, Michael Rose has done more research on the matter, with even data from other species showing that there is a point where aging stops if you live long enough – at about 90 for humans, but at different times for other animals.

Sources:

The Telegraph

NewScientist


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What Baby Teeth may Tell Researchers About Autism

Researchers are constantly studying and learning more about autism spectrum disorder (ASD), but they have yet to be able to pinpoint specific causes. The origins of the disorder seem to be based in genetics and environmental factors. Now a study funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health and Sciences (NIEHS) seems to suggest that exposure to heavy metals could be one of the environmental triggers of autism. [1]

The researchers behind the study found that the baby teeth of children with autism contain more lead and fewer vital nutrients, including manganese and zinc, compared to the teeth of children without the developmental condition.

Cindy Lawler, Ph.D., head of the NIEHS Genes, Environment, and Health Branch, said:

“We think autism begins very early, most likely in the womb, and research suggests that our environment can increase a child’s risk. But by the time children are diagnosed at age 3 or 4, it’s hard to go back and know what the moms were exposed to. With baby teeth, we can actually do that.” [1]

The study is the work of researchers from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital. It involved 32 sets of twins recruited from a national database of twins in Sweden, and was intended to see whether levels of lead and other metals correlated with an increased risk of autism. [2]

Source: Autism Speaks

Read: Possible Causes of Autism

Of the 32 sets, 6 had only 1 twin with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), 7 had both twins with ASD, and 19 were unaffected by ASD.

Lasers were used to extract precise layers of the hard substance beneath tooth enamel, called dentine, to be analyzed for metals. Umbilical cord blood was used to check prenatal levels of metals.

Manish Arora, Ph.D., an environmental scientist and dentist at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York, said:

“What is needed is a window into our fetal life. Unlike genes, our environment is constantly changing, and our body’s response to environmental stressors not only depends on just how much we were exposed to, but at what age we experienced that exposure.” [2]

Researchers got a closer look at fetal life when they uncovered major differences in pairs in which only one twin was diagnosed with autism, and less significant changes among pairs in which both twins had ASD. They were able to show dissimilarities in six metals, including lead, zinc, tin, chromium, manganese, and strontium, out of the 10 metals studied and autism rates.

They found that:

  • Lead levels were consistently higher from 10 weeks before birth to 20 weeks after birth in children with ASD than in children without the disorder.
  • The most significant difference appeared to occur at 15 weeks after the twins’ birth; lead levels were 1.5 times higher in kids with ASD than in their co-twins.
  • Manganese levels were found to be consistently lower in children with ASD at 10 weeks prenatal to birth, and at 5-20 weeks after birth. The largest difference was seen at 15 weeks, at which point manganese levels were 2.5 times lower in ASD cases. [2]
Source: Deal With Autism

Perhaps the most compelling finding from the study was that lead appears to replace zinc and manganese in autistic children’s baby teeth. This is similar to what happens in the brains of some people who are exposed to lead, only in the case of the brain, lead takes the place of calcium and makes the patient more crime-prone. [3]

It’s heartbreaking to think about what the children of Flint, Michigan, may be facing after being exposed to lead in their drinking water.

The study is in no way the final word on environmental causes of autism. The research involved a small number of subjects, and looked only at twins in order to isolate environmental factors. Not all the pieces fit together. Lead exposure in children was at its peak during the ’50s into the late ’70s, so why didn’t autism rates climb during those decades and then decline? It’s entirely possible that lead plays such a small role that it ends up getting muted in the historical data by other things.

Researchers previously had mixed results about autism and exposure to metals, particularly lead; but genetics and other factors could have limited the findings. The scientists had hoped that studying twins would rule genetics out as a factor and isolate metal exposures from the environment.

Said Arora:

“We have identified the time period when we are most susceptible. We hope to be able to provide clinical recommendations to help as we continue to do more research.” [2]

The study was published in Nature Communications.

Sources:

[1] The Huffington Post

[2] ABC News

[3] Mother Jones

Autism Speaks

Deal With Autism


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