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Nutrients May Reduce the Risk of Having a Child with Autism

Wellness resources
September 06, 2012
Byron J. Richards, Board Certified Clinical Nutritionist


A recent study implicates that DNA mutations passed on from older men are a significant risk factor for having a child with autism. Another study now shows that various nutrients can prevent such DNA damage, enabling older men to have the sperm quality of younger men.

Mutations in DNA can produce undesirable genes in one’s children. New information is finding that children inherit more DNA damage from their fathers compared to their mothers. Additionally, the rate of damage increases in men as they age, whereas it does not increase in women as they age. The research has significant implications, especially for autism risk and risk for other mental health issues.

The research team found that the average child born to a 20-year-old father had 25 random mutations that could be traced to paternal genetic material. The number increased steadily by two mutations a year, reaching 65 mutations for offspring of 40-year-old men. In comparison, mothers averaged 15 mutations regardless of age. The scientists estimate this could be responsible for 20 percent - 30 percent of Autism cases.

In a separate study an analysis of 80 healthy male volunteers between 22 and 80 years of age found that men older than 44 who consumed the most vitamin C had 20 percent less sperm DNA damage compared to men older than 44 who consumed the least vitamin C. The same was true for vitamin E, zinc, and folate.

“It appears that consuming more micronutrients such as vitamin C, E, folate, and zinc helps turn back the clock for older men. We found that men 44 and older who consumed at least the recommended dietary allowance of certain micronutrients had sperm with a similar amount of DNA damage as the sperm of younger men,” says Andy Wyrobek of Berkeley Lab’s Life Sciences Division. “This means that men who are at increased risk of sperm DNA damage because of advancing age can do something about it. They can make sure they get enough vitamins and micronutrients in their diets or through supplements.”

Many nutrients protect DNA and help DNA repair itself. Everyone should consume these for general health, including a good multiple vitamin and a good comprehensive antioxidant formulation. This is especially important to an older man who is considering fathering children; doing so can reduce the number of DNA mutations that are passed along, which is likely to reduce the risk of having a child with problems like Autism.

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