Snark Matter

autism v organics1“Do not eat from the tree of knowledge!”–the first prohibition which is clearly a joke, a perplexing temptation whose point is unclear. –Slavoj Žižek (2012)

A sarcastic graph circulating on social media among sciency contrarians shows increases in cases of diagnosed autism highly correlated with increases in sales in organic food.

The jibe takes caustic aim at proponents of natural medicine who won’t vaccinate their children on eminently refuted grounds shots cause autism.

The snark here may actually be onto something it never intended.

There are multiple causes for increasing autism (as there are likely multiple asthmas and Alzheimer’s). One set of hypotheses centers around food allergies and diet.

De Theije et al. recently showed allergies to milk induced in a mouse model to be biochemically associated with ASD-like behaviors, including reduced sociality and repetitive behaviors.

De Felice et al. just reported omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids found in, among other foods, fish oils partially rescued patients with Rett syndrome, a neurodevelopmental disorder with transient autistic symptoms.

Preliminary research on gut microbiotica, already shown repeatedly to be affected by industrial diets, showed Calormator, Sarcina and Clostridium greater in autistic children, as well as differences in Lachnospiraceae, Eubacteruaceae, Bacteriodetes, Bifidobacterium, and some Alistipes and Akkermansia species. The levels of free amino acids and volatile organic compounds also differed in patient fecal samples.

Increases in organic sales have gone hand-in-hand with a bifurcation in the food system. While the more affluent can afford pricey organics–what previous generations knew as just, well, food–the burgeoning underclass is forced by circumstance into eating cheap, highly processed, addictive and nutritionally deficient foodstuffs associated with other metabolic diseases.

The jury’s well-out on a connection to autism, but the road to understanding may once in a while be paved with a myopic sneer.


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