Autistic children have low cholesterol levels
NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Many children with autism have abnormally low levels of total cholesterol, according to a report in the American Journal of Medical Genetics. These low cholesterol levels may play a role in the development of the spectrum of autistic disorders.
The deficiency appears to stem from an inability to produce cholesterol, not from an inadequate diet or impaired absorption in the intestines, the findings suggest.
Previous reports have linked autism with Smith-Lemli-Opitz Syndrome (SLOS), a genetic disorder involving impaired cholesterol synthesis. However, the rate of SLOS and other similar disorders among patients with autism has been unclear.
Analysis of blood samples from 100 children with autism failed to identify cholesterol levels consistent with SLOS, lead author Dr. Elaine Tierney, from the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore, and colleagues note.
Unexpectedly, however, the researchers found that 19 of the children had total cholesterol levels that fell below 100 milligrams per decaliter, in the lower fifth level for children older than 2 years of age.
“We know that people can tolerate having low cholesterol, so we suspect that deficiencies in cholesterol combined with mutations to a specific gene may have resulted in autism spectrum disorders in these children,” Tierney said in a statement.
“Our next steps are to determine if other abnormalities of cholesterol metabolism can be risk factors for the development of autism,” she added.
SOURCE: American Journal of Medical Genetics, September 2006.
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