Research has suggested that autism spectrum disruption may be caused, at least in part, by differences in the composition of the gut microbiota. Now, one study argues that the relationship may work in reverse: the diversity in species found in the bowels of children with autism may be due to their dietary preferences associated with the disease.
Over the past decade, several studies have looked at the link between certain species of microbes in the gut and mental health.
In this new study, scientists analyzed stool samples from 247 children, aged between 2 and 17 years. Samples were collected from 99 children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, 51 undiagnosed siblings and 97 unrelated and undiagnosed children.
In addition to analyzing the samples by metagenomic sequencing, the scientists also carefully examined diet, as well as age and sex, reports the Ars Technica.
The team found limited evidence of a direct association of autism with the microbiome. However, it discovered a highly significant association between autism and diet.
Children diagnosed with autism had a less diversified diet is poorer dietary quality.
This can be explained by the allergies associated with the disease, by the fact that children with autism have strong sensory likes and dislikes, or by the symptoms themselves.
“The data support a surprisingly simple and intuitive model in which autism-related characteristics promote restricted dietary preferences“explained investigator Chloe Yap. “This, in turn, leads to less microbiological diversity.”
In the study, the authors note, however, that it remains possible that the microbiome may influence the behavior of children in a cycle of feedback.
O scientific article was published this month in Cell.