This is a cross-post by Kathryn Pierce and shared here. The original post can be found on Kathryn's personal LinkedIn:
One of the disadvantages of being a mother of a child with severe cognitive impairment and autism, is that I guess you could say that I am automatically classified with parents who so desperately want help for their child and a cure if one is ever found....
On the contrary, I have been heavily involved in research for almost 13 years. Yes, I do want to find a cause of autism. No, I do not believe that autism can be cured. My opinions are all based on the years of research I have done culminated together with everything I have read and personally experienced, and then carefully created and unveiled.
I believe that my son's autism is the result of a deficiency of choline while I was pregnant and during his years of brain development after birth. He is almost 14 years old, and he has classic autism. Despite all this, due to having my son, I have tremendous motivation and inspiration to find the cause or causes of autism solely for the purpose of helping future mothers and fathers as well as the children with whom I believe suffer from the ability to express themselves due to some brain anomaly that does not enable them to communicate as we typically do. My son is nonverbal, but he can "communicate" in adapted ways. He struggles on a daily basis to help my family understand exactly what he wants. He knows what he wants....he just does not know how to teach us how to understand. Through hours of observation, I have been able to figure out what he wants most of the time. In addition, my son has had to teach his body how to work with his mind. I see and feel his struggles, and this is how I wish to help future parents and children from this very challenging disorder.
So, what am I really getting at here? Well, although I am a mom who so desperately wants to help my son, I believe that due to the deficiency of choline while I was pregnant, his brain did not develop typically. At least for now, I do not believe that we can "fix" this part of his brain. It is what it is. Aside from that, being a parent trying to spread the word about choline has put me at a disadvantage. Doctors, friends, and others I have talked to about choline have dismissed my beliefs as a desperate mom blaming herself for her son's autism. On the contrary, after years of reading research and conducting research myself, I have come to the conclusion that nothing has ever proven that I am wrong about my beliefs. Instead, research keeps trending toward the notion that a choline deficiency could indeed be a possible cause of autism. At this point there is no research actually pinpointing the connection, but my personal experiences with fatty deposits in my liver as well as having a child with autism point toward the same way the research is headed. I cannot help but believe that we will someday see a decrease in autism once we are able to spread the message to prospective parents, doctors, and researchers as well as supplement all prenatal vitamins and infant formula with choline.
I was inspired to write this post when I came across an article about nonalcoholic fatty liver disease or NAFLD. The author discussed the increase in this disease in America due to the decrease in meat, eggs, and bacon consumption. About 30-40 years ago, we were told that eggs were bad for us. We have been told that meat is bad for us. We have been told that bacon is a heart attack on a plate. More recently, the trends have been changing due to the outbreak of NAFLD. The research has revealed that these foods are all high in choline. Eliminating these foods from the diet has seen a rise in NAFLD. Choline deficiency is documented in research as causing this disease. It is also documented as causing neural tube defects in babies as well as causing brain abnormalities in rats/mice. Choline plays a diverse role in many systems in our body and is a critical nutrient needed for normal brain development. As many as 90% of individuals do not have sufficient choline consumption on a daily basis. It is especially important during brain development while pregnant.
Unfortunately, I have never been able to eat eggs (due to gagging), I eat very little meat, and I did not like many green vegetables until after my pregnancies. The only source of choline that I ate in abundance during my first pregnancy was peanuts and peanut butter. My first son has a severe peanut allergy. Therefore, I took the one and only source of choline out of my diet altogether while I was pregnant with my second son. My first son has an amazing brain. His early language development and memory were/are absolutely amazing. My second son has severe cognitive impairment and autism. I developed fatty liver after this pregnancy. At the time, the doctor felt I just had too much fat around my middle and said that I needed to lose weight. On the contrary, I believe I had classic symptoms of choline deficiency. I wish I had known back then what I know now.....
So with all of this said, I can endure the comments of others when they feel sorry for me for blaming myself for my children's disabilities. But I am not sitting back and feeling sorry for myself. In fact, I am more eager now than ever to get this important information about choline to all of you. Please keep up on the research, eat enough choline, and spread the word. Please do not consider this to be "some latest fad" of some person who thinks she knows the causes of autism. This research has been developing since the 1970's by Dr. Steven Zeisel of North Carolina. It continually demonstrates the importance of choline, and his research lab is earnestly working toward developing more and more studies of choline to prove to all of you that this nutrient needs to be noticed, acknowledged, and taken seriously. Although it may not be the only cause of autism, I certainly feel that is one of the contributing factors. Another noteworthy researcher of choline is Marie Caudill of Cornell University.
In my final words, when researching the spike of autism cases in the United States, it has consistently occurred throughout the last 30-40 years. This is when we stopped eating diets rich in choline.... Do you see the possible connection? Please do be careful when reading about the latest "fads," "causes," and "cures" of autism. We cannot believe everything we read and we have to be careful, critical readers when reading research. Sometimes, false research can be misleading and lead to bad consequences. Make sure that any research that you believe in is based on actual facts, consistent, replicable, and from a reliable source.