Heavy Metals Theory in Relation to Autism
Synopsis: Article looks at theories regarding the cause of autism and other chronic diseases due to increasing amounts of heavy metals in our environment.1
Author: Thomas C. Weiss Contact: Disabled World
Published: 2014-01-27 Updated: 2017-02-19
Autism is a specific condition when a child, and later an adult, is unable to communicate as others do with those around them, to include their parents, other family members, or friends.
A heavy metal is a member of a loosely defined subset of elements that exhibit metallic properties. It mainly includes the transition metals, some metalloids, lanthanides, and actinides. Many different definitions have been proposed - some based on density, some on atomic number or atomic weight, and some on chemical properties or toxicity. In modern times, anthropogenic sources of heavy metals, i.e. pollution, have been introduced to the ecosystem. Heavy metal toxicity can result in damaged or reduced mental and central nervous function, lower energy levels, and damage to blood composition, lungs, kidneys, liver, and other vital organs. Long-term exposure may result in slowly progressing physical, muscular, and neurological degenerative processes that mimic Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, muscular dystrophy, and multiple sclerosis.
A person with autism lives in a private world, sensitive to touch, experiencing difficulties with sleeping, crying seemingly without reason, and at times perceived as being unable to learn. A child with autism does not look into another person's eyes and experiences the world in their own way. For a number of years, children with autism were considered to be mentally retarded - although as they grew it became clear that many of them are highly-talented people with exceptional thinking and original approaches to solving complex problems.
Autism was first described in 1943 in children who were born in the 1930's. These children were not a part of a large population, so the disability was considered to be exceptional and regarded as psychiatric. By the 1980's, 1 in 2,500 had been diagnosed with autism. During the 1990's, 1 in 350 children were diagnosed with autism and today 1 in 88 children who will become adults has autism.
Chart showing health results of lead accumulation in the body
Autism is not a mental illness but a medical one and has roots in an environment that has become poisoned. What we are seeing is just the tip of the iceberg and neither the Department of Health nor many doctors know what to do. According to existing proven theories, the cause of autism and other chronic diseases is increasing amounts of heavy metals in our environment. Accumulation of lead, for example, in a person's body contributes to:
- Decreased attention
- Decreased thyroid function
Cadmium causes a disturbance of sugar metabolism, slow growth, osteoporosis, aggressiveness, bad memory, and hyperactivity. Arsenic causes anorexia, allergies, addiction to carbohydrates, pain - at times burning, as well as diarrhea, spasms in a person's throat and more. Accumulation of aluminum in a person's body causes anemia, fatigue, dryness of the skin and mucous membranes, constipation, worsening memory, unusual behavior, numb limbs, and affects a person's appetite.
The Dangers of Mercury
The most dangerous and destructive metal to people is mercury. Accumulation of mercury, which is a powerful neurotoxin, damages nerve cells and fibers. Studies have shown that 258 different diseases are in one way or another associated with the accumulation of mercury in a person's body. Among these diseases are include:
- Heart failure
Chart showing items containing mercury
Along with many other diseases. According to the clinical manifestations, chronic mercury poisoning is similar to autism.
Approximately 50 million pounds of mercury is emitted into the environment every year by companies in America. Clean ponds no longer exist, at least in the states of Wisconsin and Illinois. A person would not be able to catch a fish that is nonpoisonous in these states. Mercury is contained in the following, for example:
- Eye drops
- Canned goods
- Contraceptive creams
- Contact lens solutions
- Means for washing clothes
Interestingly, the mention of mercury on the label is not required. In the year 2001, The National Academy of Sciences admitted that more than 60,000 children born each year in America might have too high of a mercury level in their bodies.
Metallothionein Protein (MT)
The Pfeiffer Treatment Center (PTC) discovered that defective functioning of, 'metallothionein protein (MT),' is a distinctive feature of autism. The abnormality is believed to be genetic and results in impaired brain development and extreme sensitivity to toxic metals and additional environmental substances. The disorder often times remains unnoticed during infancy and early childhood until it become aggravated by serious environmental factors.
A study of 503 autism-spectrum patients by PTC found abnormal levels of zinc and copper in their blood, indicating defective functioning of metallothionein (MT) proteins. In people, MT proteins regulate blood levels of these metals, detoxify mercury and other heavy metals, and assist with neuronal development. The expected consequences of defective MT during gestation or early infancy are consistent with a number of classic symptoms of autism. It seems that defective functioning of MT proteins might represent a primary cause of autism.
MT is directly involved in a person's neuronal development and maturation of their gastrointestinal tract and brain. The timing of environmental insults is crucially important. By age 3, these systems may have sufficiently matured so that environmental toxins can no longer provoke autism.
There are 4 primary types of MT protein. MT-I and MT-II are found in cells throughout a person's body. MT-II is restricted mainly to a person's brain and MT-IV to squamous epithelial cells in a person's intestines. The roles of various MT proteins and isoforms are not understood very well and are the subjects of intensive research. MT functioning involves:
- Induction of thionein
- 'Pre-loading,' with Zn atoms
- Redox reactions in which Zn might be displaced by other metals
MT proteins are induced by Zn, Cu, Cd, and other toxic and nutrient metals. In addition, MT may be induced by injury, emotional stress, or nuclear radiation and is an important anti-oxidant system in a person's body. A primary mechanism for Zn loading and metal binding is the glutathione, glutathione disulfide, redox couple.
Evidence exists that autism may be caused by either a genetic MT defect, or a biochemical abnormality that disabled MT protein. Mechanisms with the potential for disrupting MT functioning include impaired synthesis of GSH, severe Zn depletion, a pyrrole disorder, toxic metal overload, and sulfur amino acid abnormality.
The ability to define the ideal treatment of refractory autism might await definition of the specific genetic MT or other defect present. A defect of MT-I or MT-II would suggest a therapy concentrating on achieving homeostasis of metals in the person's blood. An MT-III defect may indicate the need for regulation of glutamate chemistry in a person's brain. An MT-IV defect suggests a focus on restoring appropriate G.I. Tract functioning.
Metal metabolism abnormalities observed in behavior disorders, ADHD, and mental illness might result from biochemical imbalances which impair MT functioning, instead of a direct genetic MT defect. It may explain the differences in outcomes for people with autism. It is very likely that people with autism with genetically-defective MT are more refractory to treatment than people with autism with more readily correctable biochemical imbalances. The numerous documented instances of autism, 'reversal,' might be restricted to people with the latter type of MT disorder. The discovery of disordered metal metabolism in autism might lead to early identification of autism in children, as well as prevention of regressive autism. It may lead to improved outcomes related to therapy.
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