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Autism: Understanding the Nutritional Link

People are influenced by tradition.  Unfortunately traditions and habits can keep us from altering course even when our very survival demands that we change.  There are many traditions and diet is a big one.  When it comes to diet most Americans are hopelessly snared with traditional foods that are literally causing chronic diseases.  Are you snared too?  How about your children?

Today’s most popular foods are grains, legumes, nuts, food products concocted with these ingredients, and the many different grain-fed livestock products (meats, dairy, eggs, etc.).  This is in spite of the fact that decades ago nutritional scientists proved these traditional modern-day foods undermine proper brain function and cause body failures (chronic diseases).  Does this not make our traditional foods the worst we could feed to Autistic children?  It does, yet the beat goes on for not just Autistic children but all children.

Some parents try to “eat healthy” by substituting various “bad foods” with supposedly healthy food products that replicate traditional textures and flavors.  Unfortunately, too often these replications are worse than the foods they are replacing!  “Gluten free” foods are a prime example.  Gluten free foods are made with grains, nuts, and tubers (or derivatives of grains, nuts, and tubers).  In all cases they are deficient in the overall spectrum of nutrients required to support animal life.  Many have highly skewed fatty acid profiles, i.e. they are low in Omega-3.  In nearly all cases they are extremely high glycemic foods.  This makes gluten free foods one of man’s worst mind-numbing “culinary” concoctions and underscores how some interpretations of nutritional science can mislead consumers.

The point of this essay is to create a better fundamental understanding of basic nutrition.  With fundamental knowledge we can avoid bad foods and eat just those foods that supply the appropriate nutrients required for optimal health and very best brain function.  As you will soon learn, to achieve optimal health and brain function one must avoid gluten free foods and other foods consisting of or made with grain (and most seeds), legumes, nuts, tubors, and grain-fed livestock products.  Even some fruits and vegetables are off limits!

A Most Important Commitment

Nearly every discussion or essay regarding treatments for Autism mention the diet.  Regrettably, in this arena misinformation reigns and parents fail to provide foods that offer the greatest overall positive impact on not only the mental health of their children but their children’s physical health as well.  Why?  Six reasons.

  • 1) Nutritional science is mostly misunderstood.
  • 2) Fundamentally, nutritional science calls for “too much” change.
  • 3) Nearly all marketers of processed foods and supplements prey on the ignorance of the masses.
  • 4) The media regurgitates common knowledge to maintain their followers and advertisers.
  • 5) The medical community is not trained in nutrition.  It is trained to rely on drugs, operations, and therapy which is how it earns its keep.
  • 6) Food analysis is mostly ignored.

I have been pounding this table for years, yet to this day I have not met one parent of an autistic child who has fully met the dietary challenge.  Parents say it’s too hard.  It’s too hard on themselves, therefore too difficult for little Johnny.  They have no power.  This is unfortunate because I believe the most important treatment for constructive healing and disease prevention for Autistic children is never fully utilized and all too often completely avoided.

Traditional, Addictive, and Convenient

Many of today’s traditional foods, even those believed to be healthier, are not what people ate prior to the invention of agricultural pursuits that commenced approximately 10,000 years ago.  Consequently most of the foods consumed today do not provide the proper balance of nutrients required for optimal body function.  If modern food stuffs did provide a proper balance of nutrients, the marketers of vitamins, minerals, and various other nutritional supplements would not exist.  Since there is a huge supplement industry and nearly every single person in the country is suffering from one or more chronic diseases (body failures), the nutritional deficiencies of our modern foods is readily apparent.  Yet, as big as this problem is, it is easily solved.  It “merely” requires education and action (change).  This does not mean everyone must get smart and change, but individuals who care must get smart and change – one at a time.

Part of being traditional these days is for food to also be convenient.  People are addicted to traditional foods which is why new dietary suggestions must look, taste, and satisfy like their traditional fare.  Furthermore, modern homemakers think they are too busy to prepare real food so it must be convenient.  Unfortunately real raw food is rarely processed, convenience food.  These two roadblocks to change (tradition and convenience) are so ingrained in the psyche of nearly all parents that it restricts them from utilizing the dietary solution which may be the most powerful antidote for autism.  Is America a nation of addicts?

Nutrients Matter

All animals require the same nutrient balance found in the green leafy plant.  Green leafy plants are a sustainable life form in that they absorb their nutrients from the air, water, and soil while gaining their energy from the sun.  Animals are not a sustainable life form.  They get their nutrients and energy by eating plants and/or other animals that have green leaves at the bottom of their food chain.  This is a fundamental fact of nutritional science and life on earth.  It’s why animals and plants differ.

A study of food chemistry reveals that spinach, kale, broccoli, and other similar foodstuffs provide 100% of the nutrients needed by man, a perfect balance of the essential fatty acids, and they are low glycemic.  Fatty acids make up 60% of our brains by weight and the essential Omega-6 and Omega-3 fatty acids are major components of that 60%.  So if we eat the nutrient dense green leafy plants and/or animals that have green leafy plants at the bottom of their food chain, we end up with 100% of our nutrient requirements in perfect balance.  But we must limit our food choices to just these foods in order to have optimal health and a strong immune system.

Instead of having green leafy plants at the bottom of the food chain, what are Americans doing?  Ask yourself, “What am I eating?  What is my child eating?”  Mostly it is grain; the large seeds of grass plants.  Next in line may be some fruit – usually the sweetest fruits.  Then it will be meat and dairy products from animals that have been fed grain.  Then comes vegetables, but usually not just the best ones.  Also on the list are nuts, cooking oils, and processed foods made from grains, legumes, and nuts.

Even in all their various combinations the non green leaf plant based foods cannot possibly provide the rigidly balanced nutrient profiles required for optimal animal body function.  Even when combined together, grains, nuts, fruit, grain-fed livestock products, cooking oils and such have highly skewed fatty acid profiles that are way out of balance compared to the essential fatty acids in green leafy plants.  Most of these foods only have about 60% of the required nutrients.  Most of these are also high glycemic.  For decades nutritional scientists have been saying that nutrient deficiencies, unbalanced nutrients, and high glycemic foods cause chronic diseases and mental problems.  Unbelievably it’s a message the public has yet to hear and comprehend!

You Can Measure

One of the most misunderstood essential nutrients is the Omega-3 fatty acid.  Many parents of autistic children have tried Omega-3 supplements.  Bottom line, most have been disappointed because they did not understand the nutritional goal they had to meet in order to be successful.  Without knowing the goal, they failed.

Back in the late 1970s scientists discovered that a natural relationship existed between the essential Omega-6 and Omega-3 families of fatty acids in the membranes of cells in animal bodies.  That relationship was approximately one to one by weight which is similar to the fatty acid balance in the cells of green leafy plants.

It was soon determined that the two essential fatty acid families (Omega-6 and Omega-3) play a very significant role in animal body function and overall health.  When the balance between these two fatty acid families is skewed higher than four to one, animal body function measurably deteriorates.  As the balance approaches one to one, body function peaks.  So, if you are using Omega-3 supplements that’s a great thing.  But my bet is that you have not measured the Omega-6 to Omega-3 balance of any of your family members.  Nor have you analyzed the foods your family eats.  That oversight is like driving blindfolded.  My test of choice is http://omega3test.com.  Type SLANKER in the offer code for a discount!

If you are supplementing without measurements, that is probably why there is so little improvement?  The reason being is that natural foods hosting the appropriate balances of Omega-6 and Omega-3 fatty acids are very low fat foods.  The “unnatural foods” (grain, nuts, tubers, vegetable oils, some vegetables, some fruits, grain-fed meats, grain-fed poultry and dairy products) are high fat foods that are very heavy in Omega-6 fatty acids and light in Omega-3 fatty acids.  Consequently the daily load of Omega-6 fatty acids in the average American diet is 10 to 20 times the daily load of Omega-3 fatty acids.  Since the more abundant essential fatty acid in a diet tends to block the absorption of the deficient essential fatty acid, with dietary Omega-6 loads of 30,000 mg per day, the blood lipid ratios of most Americans exceed 20:1.  That’s why a daily 1,000 mg Omega-3 supplementation does not go nearly far enough to make a difference in a 20:1 ratio.  Without a major change in the overall ratio bringing it down to well below 4:1, a significant change may not be detectable in mental and/or physical health.

Food Analysis

Everyone needs to learn the vital basics about the foods they eat in order to make proper choices.  Once the nutrient compositions of various food products are known the ingredient labels make more sense.  I have a popular web page that provides critical basic data.  (See analysis.)  Many other sources of nutritional data are available and nearly all of them get their data from the U.S. government.  Consequently most data sources offer the same data.

The data indicates the following basic facts about these various food groups.

     Nutrients-Fatty Acids-Glycemic Table-1

In this list only vegetables on average provide a one-to-one balance of the essential Omega-6 and Omega-3 fatty acids.  On average, only vegetables provide over 90% of the nutrients required for proper body function.  Most vegetables are low glycemic.  Obviously, some vegetables are better than others.  The good scores for vegetables, especially the nearly perfect green leafy type, prove why they are the foundation food for all animal life.  The better vegetables, as well as food products from animals that eat green leafy plants, are THE food for the brain.

Now look down below the vegetables and check out the nutrient compositions of the other more popular food groups.  They are horrible!  Look at the fatty acid ratios of grains (seeds), legumes (soy, peanuts, etc.), and nuts.  They are our nation’s most popular foods and they are the primary reason for the Omega-3 deficiency.  Or put another way, grains, legumes, and nuts (and their concocted derivatives) are the primary causes of mental deficiencies and other chronic diseases.  Note that fruit, a highly recommended food, is in many cases an anemic food that’s high in sugar.

Animals that eat primarily grains, legumes, nuts, tubers, and fruit will have nutritional deficiencies and highly skewed fatty acid profiles.  That’s why people should not eat grain-fed animal products.  But that recommendation changes if animals eat green leafy plants or have green leafy plants at the bottom of their food chains.  As the following table illustrates, grass-fed meats and wild seafood are down the centerline for providing a perfect balance of nutrients and fatty acids.  Note also that not all vegetables are the same.  My table does not show which vegetables are more nutrient dense but even when some have 100% of the required nutrients, the nutrient density varies.  With more intensive research this too becomes crystal clear.

For instance, Iceberg Lettuce has more nutrients than most foods, but its nutrient density falls far short of Kale.  That’s why the best bang for the buck is Kale.

     Nutrients-Fatty Acids-Glycemic Table

When it comes to feeding an Autistic child, one must focus almost entirely on selected vegetables and grass-fed livestock products.  The Food Analysis emphasis must be three-pronged.  Balance the essential fatty acids by weight in all the foods consumed each and every day.  Make sure the diet provides 100% of the required nutrients for proper body function – not just some of the nutrients.  Avoid high glycemic foods.  Of course these dietary guidelines apply to everyone because whomever eats that way (grass-fed meats/wild seafood plus properly selected vegetables) will greatly strengthen their immune system, improve their mental clarity, and in many cases actually cure chronic diseases.

Ted Slanker
December 4, 2012

 

Additional Links of Note:

1)  Excellent Books about Mental Disorders and Omega-3 Fatty Acids
2)  Autism and Omega-3
3)  Many Scientific References about Food and Nutrition
4)  The Omega-3 Blood Lipid Test
5)  Extensive Food Analysis