In The Politics of Autism, I discuss various ideas about what causes the condition. Here is just a partial list of correlates, risk factors, and possible causes that have been the subject of serious studies:
- Air pollution and proximity to freeways;
- Maternal thyroid issues;
- Autoimmune disorders;
- Induced labor;
- Preterm birth;
- Birth by cesarean section;
- Maternal and paternal obesity;
- Maternal diabetes;
- Maternal and paternal age;
- Maternal post-traumatic stress disorder;
- Smoking during pregnancy;
- Antidepressant use during pregnancy;
- Polycystic ovary syndrome.
- Infant opioid withdrawal
A release from Froniters in Molecular Neuroscience:
The emergence of autism in children has not only been linked to genes encoding synaptic proteins—among others—but also environmental insults such as zinc deficiency.
Although it is unclear whether zinc deficiency contributes to autism, scientists have now defined in detail a possible mechanistic link. Their research shows how zinc shapes the connections or 'synapses' between brain cells that form during early development, via a complex molecular machinery encoded by autism risk genes. Published in Frontiers in Molecular Neuroscience, the findings do not directly support zinc supplementation for the prevention of autism—but extend our understanding of its underlying developmental abnormalities, towards an eventual treatment.
"Autism is associated with specific variants of genes involved in the formation, maturation and stabilization of synapses during early development," says study senior author Dr. Sally Kim of Stanford University School of Medicine.
"Our findings link zinc levels in neurons—via interactions with the proteins encoded by these genes—to the development of autism."