Cholesterol and autism

April 11, 2011 2:41:15 PM PDT
As people around the globe recognize autism this month, researchers are launching a new study focusing on cholesterol levels of children.

It's a whole new focus of research on this mysterious syndrome. In some cases, researchers think that cholesterol levels could be too low and that could be having an effect on children's development.

Anything little Rose Barker does is anything but typical. Rose has autism, and just a few short months ago, her doing anything on her own was unimaginable.

"This is a child that would have a blank stare and run from other people if she didn't know them. I would have to literally carry her up the stairs with me if I just went from one level to another," said Angela Barker, Rose's mother.

Rose is now reading, smiling, and interacting like never before. The Barkers added a packet of cholesterol to Rose's diet twice a day, and that simple has had a profound effect.

"It's possible that too low cholesterol could be one of several causes of autism, affecting a sub-group of children with autism," said Dr. Eugene Arnold, from the Ohio State University Medical Center.

Dr. Arnold launched an initial study with a simple premise: knowing that proper levels of cholesterol are essential for brain development and function. He wanted to see if increasing cholesterol could reduce symptoms in autism. In Rose's case at least, the results were clear.

"Personally, for us, the cholesterol has changed our life. It was exactly what she needed. Her development started almost immediately. She smiles again. She runs. She has awesome motor skills," said Angela.

Dr. Arnold and his team at Ohio State's Nisonger Center are expanding their study in conjunction with the National Institutes of Health. Even as they add patients to their trial, they do so with a word of caution.

"It's very important that we not just rush out and try to give everybody with autism cholesterol, because for some of them it may be harmful," said Dr. Arnold.

Doctors at Ohio State University Medical Center and those with the National Institutes of Health and Johns Hopkins University are looking to enroll children between the ages of 4 and 12.

At first some children will receive a placebo, but ultimately everyone in the study will receive 12 weeks of cholesterol packets to see the impact it has on the symptoms of autism. For more information, please visit the link below: