Air Pollution Causes DNA Changes Relevant to Autism


Epigentics is a relatively new field of study involving the changes in genetic expression (versus gene sequence).  This ability to turn on and off genes is a way for humans to rapidly adapt to changes in our environment.  Nutrition and toxins can influence these changes in gene expression. This gene expression can be affected during adulthood or in utero, and can be caused by nutrient deficiencies (and reversed by good nutrition) and by toxins. These epigenetic changes are influenced by DNA methylation.  You may have heard of DNA methylation, and methylation in general, in relation to autism.  Jill James PhD has done a number of studies on B12 and folate deficiency (two nutrients essential in the methylation cycle that lead to glutathione production) and glutathione status in children with autism.  She found that many children lacked proper methylation (and transulfuration) and adequate glutathione levels. Glutathione acts as a potent antioxidant and detoxifier, and it helps support proper immune function and inflammation. A recent study published in Environmental Health Perspectives uncovered how pollution in the air caused changes in genes associated with glutathione.  This research studied older men (not with autism) and found that the chemicals from burning coal and wood, black carbon and sulfate respectively, caused gene changes associated with glutathione pathways. This study is very relevant to autism as it shows how specific toxins affect gene expression, and particularly glutathione status.  This is an exciting study that provides further support that autism is a combination of genetic predisposition and environmental assault.   Source: Madrigano J, Baccarelli A, Mittleman MA, Wright RO, Sparrow D, Vokonas PS, et al. 2011. Prolonged Exposure to Particulate Pollution, Genes Associated With Glutathione Pathways, and DNA Methylation in a Cohort of Older Men. Environ Health Perspect doi:10.1289/ehp.1002773  

Julie Matthews is a Certified Nutrition Consultant who received her master’s degree in medical nutrition with distinction from Arizona State University. She is also a published nutrition researcher and has specialized in complex neurological conditions, particularly autism spectrum disorders and ADHD for over 20 years. Julie is the award winning author of Nourishing Hope for Autism, co-author of a study proving the efficacy of nutrition and dietary intervention for autism published in the peer-reviewed journal, Nutrients, and also the founder of Download her free guide, 12 Nutrition Steps to Better Health, Learning, and Behavior.

1 Comment

  1. This is amazing to me. As I read this I am blown away. I am a 48yr old women who lives in AZ. Last year I was told that I had Heavy Metal Poisoning. I was a Dental Asst. for 9 yrs and my Mercury Level was very high. Long story short, I am now seeing a Holistic Dr that says never has anyone needed as much Folate Supplement as I have. Now last year I have to remember at one time I looked and sound like a Parkinson Patient. I did IV Chelation for a while but stopped because I was not comfortable with the Dr I was seeing, so I stopped all treatment. From a young age of 6 months I took a ton of Declomycin that caused issues with my permanent teeth, along with other things I’m sure. I was born in KY where my Grand Parents has a Coal Burning stove in there home.. hmmm more Mercury. Now I am fighting to get all of these Toxins out of my body and I am on Glutathione and for tabs a day of the Folate Supplement. I don’t know why Private Insurances can’t see, and won’t see that Holistic Medicine is the only way to go and pay for this cost. Let’s get America Healthy. Thank you for this artical, this just educates me even more on what I’m going through.




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