This article does not mean to raise false hopes, only to recognise the widely accepted consensus that we know very little about the causes of autism. In contrast, Alzheimer's disease, a common degenerative brain disorder, has at least a definitive pathology that can be confirmed (albeit only in post mortem microscopy). Those diagnosed with autism are left with empirically-established treatments, which are a fancy name for trial-and-error. To date, it consists of behavioural and rehabilitative therapy, and little else.
There just might be another possibility out there though. Preliminary reports, surfacing ever so slowly but inexorably, now seem to establish a link between omega-3 oil supplements and an improved quality of life in autistic children. This direction of research has been going on for decades, ever since low levels of omega-3 fatty acids have been associated with a wide range of neurological disorder. However, initial trials were conducted in a less-than-rigorous manner. Either they neglected to enforce a double-blind condition, which renders the results susceptible to the placebo effect, or they were done in very small scales or as case reports. Happily, new evidence have remedied these defects, and the results are still holding up.
One such trial assembled 70 six- to eleven-year-olds who were afflicted with autism, and prescribed them with a daily regime of DHA-enriched omega-3 fatty acids in the form of fish oil capsules. 30% of the exhibited significant improvements compared to the control groups: they began to make eye contact and socialized in more advanced manners. Two points were especially scintillating: the fact that improvements lasted as long as the supplements were given, and the age of the participants.
Usually, the human body copes with DHA shortages by a very inefficient conversion mechanism. However, it depletes other essential fatty acids in the process. It is conceivable that neural growth irregularities, once firmly entrenched past the age of three or so, are being continually repaired by the brain. In the process, it consumes the normally allotted quota of fatty acids, which in turn brings about a long-term omega-3 deficiency. (Of course, this is no more than a hypothesis: researchers, in a suspiciously self-rewarding consensus, agree that more research is needed before they can pinpoint the exact mechanism.)
If you are inclined to try this approach, there are a few things you should note. Dosages vary from trial to trial, but a good rule-of-thumb for toddlers is around 1000mg of omega-3 oil with a quarter of it in DHA by weight. Since they are classified as food supplements, there is strictly speaking no upper limit for fish oil consumption, and any unabsorbed remnants are simply excreted away with no side effects whatsoever.
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