JOURNAL ARTICLE
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Food for thought: dietary changes in essential fatty acid ratios and the increase in autism spectrum disorders

Kim van Elst, Hilgo Bruining, Barbara Birtoli, Christian Terreaux, Jan K Buitelaar, Martien J Kas
Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews 2014, 45: 369-78
25025657
The last decades have shown a spectacular and partially unexplained rise in the prevalence of autism spectrum disorders (ASD). This rise in ASD seems to parallel changes in the dietary composition of fatty acids. This change is marked by the replacement of cholesterol by omega-6 (n-6) fatty acids in many of our food products, resulting in a drastically increased ratio of omega-6/omega-3 (n-6/n-3). In this context, we review the available knowledge on the putative role of fatty acids in neurodevelopment and describe how disturbances in n-6/n-3 ratios may contribute to the emergence of ASDs. Both clinical and experimental research is discussed. We argue that a change in the ratio of n-6/n-3, especially during early life, may induce developmental changes in brain connectivity, synaptogenesis, cognition and behavior that are directly related to ASD.

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