Many Children With Autism Have High Copper Levels (and high aluminum and mercury levels too)

From reading many parents' comments on various blogs, I learned that it is common for children with autism to have high copper levels and low levels of zinc.

  • A high copper to zinc ratio is believed to cause many health issues such as mental problems, diabetes, decreased digestive enzyme activity, food sensitivities and allergies, and autoimmune diseases, IBS, and chronic candida. [2]
  • "Mild zinc deficiency contributes to impaired physical and neuropsychological development and increased susceptibility to life-threatening infections in young children." [4]

That finding could help explain why zinc supplements and GF/CF diets are so beneficial for many children with autism. (Too little copper and too much zinc is not safe either, so ALWAYS consult with a doctor you trust before giving your children supplements or changing their diets.)

1. Zinc and Copper compete for absorption:

  • "High intake of zinc induces the intestinal synthesis of a copper-binding protein called metallothionein. Metallothionein traps copper within intestinal cells and prevents its systemic absorption" [4]
  • "The excess Cu results in impaired Zn absorption" [3]

2. Gluten and Casein affect Zinc and Copper levels:

  • "Grains (especially wheat and gluten grains) inhibit zinc absorption. Dairy and calcium slows elimination of copper" [2]
  • "Calcium in combination with phytic acid reduces zinc absorption", and "Phytic acid is present in legumes, grains, and rice" [4]

"Excessive copper can be neurotoxic, and ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) children typically have already-elevated levels of copper for the same reasons that their bodies cannot detoxify the other heavy metals (mercury, lead, etc.)" [5]

The following study found that only 4 out of 503 autism-spectrum patients did not exhibit a serious metal-metabolism disorder:
Abnormal Metal-metabolism throughout the autism spectrum
Autistic Disorder (318)
PDD with Autistic Features (162)
Asperger's Disorder (23)
>The incidence and severity of metal imbalances were very similar across these autism phenotypes.

Test Population
The test subjects were selected from a pool of 705 patients previously diagnosed with an autistic-spectrum disorder. Using DSM-IV subjects with questionable diagnoses, and patents with co-morbidity for seizures, depression, schizophrenia, serious head injury, Tourette's Syndrome, and birth anoxia were excluded (deprived of oxygen).

Abnormal Metal-metabolism Observed in Test Subjects
- extremely disordered levels of Cu and Zn, indicating absence of blood homeostasis for these metals in 428 subjects (85%),
- moderately disordered Cu/Zn levels despite ongoing zinc therapy in 41 subjects (8%)
- Severe pyrrole disorder in an additional 30 subjects (6%) indicating severe zinc depletion
>These data strongly suggest a universal metallothionein protein dysfunction in autism-spectrum patients


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