Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Omega 3 and autism: how to account for dietary aversion?

Recently The Economist, a news magazine, highlighted Omega 3 fatty acids in its science section. This got some attention, including this BBC article which confuses The Economist with an academic publication. The thesis is of great interest to parents of children with autism; although the article speaks of "lower IQs" the traits allegedly related to low fish intake sound primarily autistic:
BBC NEWS | Health | Oily fish makes 'babies brainier'

... Looking at the effects of Omega-3 intake on 9,000 mothers and their children, the team found mothers with the lowest intake of the essential fatty acid had children with a verbal IQ six points lower than the average.

While those with the highest consumption of mackerel and sardines and other sources of Omega-3 had children, at age three-and-a-half, with the best measures of fine-motor performance, researchers said.

Low intake of the crucial fatty acid also appeared to lead to more problems of social interactions - such as an inability to make friends.

Research leader Dr Joseph Hibbeln said "frightening data" showed 14% of 17-year-olds whose mother had eaten small quantities of Omega -3 during pregnancy demonstrated this sort of behaviour.

This compared with 8% of those born to the group with the highest intake, he said.

... Professor Jean Golding of Bristol University set up the original research - the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children -15 years ago to look at the predisposition to disease.

She told the BBC: "The baby's brain needs Omega-3 fatty acids. It doesn't create its own fatty acids so it needs to be something that the mother will eat." ...

The richest sources of Omega-3 are larger fish which eat other fish, but research shows that the larger the fish the more pollutants, such as mercury, they contain.

For this reason Mr Holford recommends women consume two portions of wild or organic salmon, trout or sardines weekly.

Seeds such as flax, pumpkin and hemp are good sources of Omega-3 for vegetarians, but large quantities need to be consumed to gain the same effect.

This might translate to two tablespoons of seeds daily, Mr Holford said, but women can also use a high quality Omega-3 supplements.
Hmm. This may be one of the most flagrant examples of confusing correlation with causation I've seen in the past few years.

Let's consider autism. Autism is a genetic disorder with complex inheritance and variable penetrance. The parents and siblings of autistic children show "autistic traits". Most autistic people have strong food aversions. It would not be surprising if persons with autism, or their relatives, avoided oily fish. If so, could that explain the entire relationship between Omega-3 intake and lower IQ and social isolation?

Even if Omega-3 intake was helpful to infants who didn't have autism, what's to say it would help those with autism? It might even hurt them.

Bottom line, this is an interesting study. It would be very good to know what the animal models tell us. I would not be surprised, however, if 10 years from now Omega-3 was not considered terribly important.

PS. I've noticed the Google Ads appearing on this page tend to favor 'alternative' therapies and remedies. That's not my gig, and if they keep doing that I'll take them off the page. The only reason they're there is to provide a service to readers -- I don't make anything from them.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Minnesota Special Hockey

Minnesota Special Hockey has a web site. Actually, it's a blogspot blog and a redirect from www.mnspecialhockey.org, but it is up.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Winter sports and recreation for special needs: Hockey, Skiing and more (Twin City area)

[Update 2/21/06 with information from hockey flyer].

I'm amazed I'd not heard of this. Three Minneapolis suburbs offer courses and recreational activity for persons with disabilities. The fee for non-residents is said to be only slightly higher than the resident fee.
Adaptive Recreation and Learning Exchange

The Cities and school districts of Edina, Eden Prairie, Bloomington and Richfield work together to provide recreation and education for people with disabilities. This cooperative is known as the Adaptive Recreation & Learning Exchange (AR&LE).
The 17 page winter catalog (PDF on site) includes ski lessons (GACK! We'd have done that!).

Together with the American Special Hockey Association the ARLE is now launching a MN Special Hockey program (first in the state) for ages 3 and older with a $60 fee for residents and non-residents. The program starts after regular hockey is over, it will run from March 5th 2006 to April 9th on Sunday evenings from 5:30-6:30 pm (952-826-0433).

The hockey program is not yet on the main web site. Email me (jfaughnan@spamcop.net) prior to 2/24 for a PDF of the flyer. A JPG scan (will print oddly, click on it for larger view) is below. The initial location is the Richfield Ice Arena 636 East 66th Street.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Correct decisions with limited conscious cognitive abilities

I am often surprised by the correct decisions of at least one person with a very limited verbal reasoning capability. Perhaps there's an explanation:
Gordon's Notes: Better decisions without the prefrontal cortex

... I wonder if this goes some way to explaining why some children and adults with poor prefrontal cortex functions (low measured IQ, severe ADHD) may make surprisingly correct decisions given complex problems. If their unconscious reason is less impaired than their PF cortex ...