The consumption rate of processed food items is increasing due to their ready to eat competence with enhancing taste satisfy our craving in our busy lifestyle. But during processing, many foods lost their nutritional value. Additional fat and food preservatives cause many chronic disease conditions.
Recent days, many children diagnosed with autism, which is a neural chronic disease. Medical researchers want to search for the underlying cause of this increasing trend. A report published on 20th June 2019, reported that the intake of processed food during pregnancy has a link with the increasing prevalence of autism in children.
Further, researchers explained that an acid present in higher level in processed food could be a cause of molecular alteration in the neuronal stem cell of the fetus.
The identified acid is Propionic Acid (PPA) added in processed foods like processed cheese and bread can inhibit the growth of molds. Thus PPA acts as a food preservative but can cause poor neuronal development in fetal brains.
Dr. Naser, a gastroenterology specialist at the College of Medicine's Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences, found that gastric problems like irritable bowel syndrome were a common complaint among autistic children.
He started to research the underlying relationship between the gut and the brain. He initially found from his research that gut microbiome of autistic children differs from non- autistic children.
He also that the PPA level is higher in children suffering from autism after analyzing the stool sample of both autistic and non- autistic children. Dr. Naser had continued his research to find out the underlying cause of this difference.
The team of his scientists found that excessive PPA exposure was the reason of brain neural stem cells damage. They also reported that PPA causes an imbalance between several neurons and glial cells in the brain by reducing the number of brain neurons and stimulating the production of glial cells in the fetus. A normal number of glia cells have a protective effect on neurological functioning. But the excessive glial cells leads to destroy the neuronal connectivity and cause inflammation in the neural stem cells. These changes are common in autism.
The excessive amounts of the PPA also restrict the communication between neuronal brain tissue with the rest of the body by shortening and damaging neuronal pathways. Impaired neuronal communication leads to behavioral disorder, incapability to interact with others and mobility disorder.
Previously, the proposed pathophysiology of autism suspected that involvement of environmental and genetic factors. But present study result found after 18 months of research work first discovered that the PPA exposure could modify the molecular neuronal brain structure with the proliferation of glial cells with distressed neural circuitry, which altogether caused autism.
Research experts of this team explained that during pregnancy, the mother's microbiome has changed due to naturally occurring PPA in the gut environment. Along with this, the eating of packaged food items increases the load of PPA, which cross the placental barrier and affect the neuronal growth of the fetus. However, this research result is laboratory-based. For more details result the research team will continue this study on animals.