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Old 06-16-2016, 10:44 AM   #1
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Default maternal obesity, autism, and gut bacteria?

It is important to note that this entire study was carried out on mice. Mice, obviously, are not humans. Further, their development is probably simpler, both because it happens much more quickly and so is exposed to less variables, and because their brains and behaviors are not as complex. So do take all of this with a pinch, or maybe a spoonful, of salt when thinking about it in terms of human beings.

If fact, normally I would not link an article at this level of research, but I’m doing it with this one for two reasons:
1) As the parent of a kid who probably had/has aspergers (officially that term doesn’t exist anymore), I know the extra challenges that throws in ones path, and life can be challenging enough without extra hurdles to overcome, so all else being remotely equal it is good to reduce one’s offspring’s chance of developing it.
2) I think it VERY likely that “If you are fat your kids will be autistic!” will show up somewhere in the mainstream media, as well as possibly “If you feed you/your baby THIS miracle pill, your kids won’t be autistic!” Being informed of the facts as known so far is good, in this age of click-bait journalism and ‘facts’ being circulated via Facebook, etc.

Super-compressed, tl;dr summary:
• There are studies that suggest fat mother have more autistic kids
• In mice, it looks like having more of a particular bacteria in the gut might fight this tendency

In summary:
• Apparently there are numbers showing that obese (human) mothers are more likely to have autistic kids (no reference provided in this article)
• They were able to reproduce similar effects to this in mice by feeding the mother mice a very high fat diet before and during pregnancy (which also made them obese). (no comment on whether it is the high fat diet, or the obesity, which caused the autism like effects)
• They showed that changing the gut bacteria of the offspring of the mother mice fed the high fat diet avoided the autism like effects (not clear to me from this article whether this reversed an existing effect, or if this was only if given from a very early age)
• They found a specific bacteria in mice (emphasis that this was in mice, human gut flora probably is not all the same?) that seemed to correlate strongly with these observations, and were able to show that simply giving the offspring of the high-fat-fed-mothers that bacteria seemed to avoid the effects (again not clear to me if this reversed effects, or avoiding them developing if given early enough)
• They were able to show that these effects in mice seem to correlate with the number of oxytocin producing cells in the offspring’s brains (oxytocin is a hormone that influences a lot of social behavior in mammals, not to over simplify but I think I’ve seen it referred to as the ‘cuddle hormone’)

With all those disclaimers out of the way, here is the link to the article:
http://www.economist.com/news/scienc...n/nwl/n/n/NA/n

On a personal note, I don’t know if I’ll push this article at my wife, because I worry she will feel guilty – beyond generic mother’s guilt – for our son’s non-typical neural development, because she was medically obese while pregnant.
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Old 06-16-2016, 01:05 PM   #2
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Except that there is no mouse equivalent of autism, making this entirely study a null point. All that proves is that the offspring of obese mice have different behaviours, on average. Let me repeat; there is no such thing as an animal analogue of autism. I suspect that the actual study, which that isn't a link to and I suspect is behind a paywall, would have been into the effects of diet, gut microflora and behaviour in mouse offspring. I highly doubt that actual scientists would be investing money into investigating something that doesn't exist.

Also, kids don't 'develop' autism. We are born with it. And it is a part of us, inseparable from everything else that makes us who we are. As a father of an autistic person, Tad, you should know better than to imply that you would rather have had a different son just because the one you currently have is more 'challenging'. If I was your son and I read what you put here, I would be absolutely heart-broken and mortified by your tone here, that autistic people are defective and that people should feel guilt for bringing them into the world.

Guess I'm lucky to have parents that would rather have me, a little autistic kid, than a different daughter who isn't autistic.
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Old 06-30-2016, 05:34 PM   #3
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I'm a little surprised to read this article post from Tad, well i don't know you personally, but i read a lot of post from you on Dim's, which are often good advice, or at least fairly measured.
This article is strange no? Mice can be autist? I never heard that, so how can they make a scientific study this premise.
And well, you told you worry that your wife mightl feel guillty, so you thibk there is a litte part of truth in that study , really?
I'm surprised
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Old 02-23-2017, 01:44 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tad View Post
*snip*

• They were able to show that these effects in mice seem to correlate with the number of oxytocin producing cells in the offspring’s brains (oxytocin is a hormone that influences a lot of social behavior in mammals, not to over simplify but I think I’ve seen it referred to as the ‘cuddle hormone’)

*snip*
I wonder how this ties into it:
http://www.npr.org/sections/health-s...esearchers-say
Quote:
"Our data blew that out of the water," says Karen Parker, a Stanford researcher involved in the most rigorous study yet of autism and oxytocin levels. The study, published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that children with autism were no more likely than other kids to have low levels of oxytocin in the blood.
So--returning to the OP's linked study--it seems the baby mice of obese mothers had stunted oxytocin levels early on. This then led them to not develop normal social functioning as they matured. The question comes to my mind is IF these studies are linked in some way AND relevant then some things have to be explained:
  • Did the study I linked about autistic children measure their oxytocin levels when they were infants?
  • In the OP's linked study, did the low oxytocin baby mice mature to have normal oxytocin levels later on, despite their deficient social functioning?
  • Is the 'lack of interest in social interaction' in the OP's linked study the same thing as Autism?
  • If gut bacteria are to blame for low oxytocin levels in babies and it's linked to later developing autism, why is there then a strong genetic link between children and their parents regarding oxytocin levels?
Indicaitons are--for me--autism is a separate problem from low oxytocin levels.

Hmm I went on a googling spree and found some interesting reads:
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4356154/
Quote:
The early-life environment is critical for development in humans and other mammals [for a review on the long-term impact of early-life events, see Ref. (16)]. A significant component of the early-life environment is mother–infant bonding. Social experiences in the early-life period and bonding form the basis for healthy social and emotional development, possibly of the mechanism that manages stress and resilience (11). The well-documented protective associations between secure attachments and later social functioning and behavior underscore the need to understand the origins of attachments and identify the specific individual differences that influence attachment and development (17). Current research highlights the link between oxytocin concentrations and a specific set of maternal bonding behaviors and attitudes in humans (1824). There is evidence to suggest that oxytocin plays an important role in facilitation of mother–infant bonding [for reviews, see Ref. (10, 25)] and that the early social environment can shape the developing oxytocin system. There is substantial literature documenting the relationship between oxytocin and the early-life environment in animals (2628); however, minimal research has focused on this area in humans. Importantly, there is only limited data about the normal development of the oxytocin system in humans over time (11).
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Old 02-27-2017, 09:54 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by loopytheone View Post
Except that there is no mouse equivalent of autism, making this entirely study a null point. All that proves is that the offspring of obese mice have different behaviours, on average. Let me repeat; there is no such thing as an animal analogue of autism. I suspect that the actual study, which that isn't a link to and I suspect is behind a paywall, would have been into the effects of diet, gut microflora and behaviour in mouse offspring. I highly doubt that actual scientists would be investing money into investigating something that doesn't exist.

Also, kids don't 'develop' autism. We are born with it. And it is a part of us, inseparable from everything else that makes us who we are. As a father of an autistic person, Tad, you should know better than to imply that you would rather have had a different son just because the one you currently have is more 'challenging'. If I was your son and I read what you put here, I would be absolutely heart-broken and mortified by your tone here, that autistic people are defective and that people should feel guilt for bringing them into the world.

Guess I'm lucky to have parents that would rather have me, a little autistic kid, than a different daughter who isn't autistic.
I think you need to evaluate your tone on this repsonse. There are animal models of autism and they have varying degrees of validity depending on what is being investigated. Autism is considered neurodevelopmental, the developmental changes may occur in utero and I don't think he implied he wanted a different son at all. Given that some people with the most severe autism are never able to care for themselves, require 24 hour support and often end up in assisted living I think it's fair to try to prevent the condition.
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Old 02-27-2017, 09:58 AM   #6
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This seems to have made people snippy, or at least it is how it appears on my phone.

I agree with your subtexts, Tad; the content is mildy interesting with plenty of holes and without proper fact finding.

Only when you are or FEEL yourself to be a parent can you understand the devastation that even a small chance that something you did or did not do, caused your child harm. That is normal, if not helpful, and I agree it would probably not be helpful to show her that!

I didn't get the impression you didn't want your son either.

Animals suffer from mental, emotional and physical issues similar to humans. Autism can appear more heavily early or later in life, as can many conditions. People can demonstrate a set of behaviours without fitting a mold. Many people here who identify as "depressed" may not fit the brain wave and acrtivity charts that prove they are depressed; but doctors treat symptoms. I'm less fussed they used the word autism to describe behaviours than I am some of the presumptions and incorrect assertions that were drawn/a lack of proof for those assertions.
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Old 02-27-2017, 10:13 AM   #7
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Straight up, if you are sensitive on an issue because of your own mental hang ups about this, that's completely understandable but that doesn't give you the right to project your bullshit on to someone else! Tad had no "tone" that suggested he didn't want his son or that he was sorry or ashamed. He brought up an article that piqued his interest as the father of an autistic child and put it here at a place where he could hopefully discuss it with others free from his wife or son so as to specifically not have them see it and possibly be hurt by it. There is nothing wrong with discussion and the exchange of ideas and if it is something you are too close to and have no desire to hear a dissenting opinion about them maybe not entering the discussion at all would be the wise course of action.
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Old 02-27-2017, 11:27 AM   #8
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Folks, picking at Loopy for a reply she made eight months ago is a bit much, I'd say. And given that I chose not to respond -- but you have to know that I read and reply here regularly -- should give you some clue that I'd rather have just let things be.

That said, I'm glad that the mainstream media did not appear to pick up on this story, but I stand by my intent of making people aware of the issue. And for those who have trouble with the link to the Economist article, here is a link to a deeper discussion of the issue (and without my layman shorthanding of some issues)
https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_relea...-ass061016.php
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Old 02-27-2017, 11:34 AM   #9
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I actually didn't see the date, it looked like a new thread on my phone (it defaults to about size 6 font), so I responded based on that.

Totally get it, and i'd retract my response - except I can't.

If old threads and people's previous posts are not supposed to be replied to, however, I'd lock it.

Elsewise people that only visit occassionally will feel like they can't participate...except in rhe lol/happy/pissy thread, as that updates daily. I mean even I now feel like "ok, i wont know what I am allowed to respond or not to respond on, and it'/ more rhan a week old so i guess i stay silwnt..."
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Old 02-27-2017, 11:53 AM   #10
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Same as Xy wrote. I thought it was a brand new thread.

Perhaps it was picking at Loopy a bit and I didn't realize it was so long ago but I'll always come down against people trying to make someone else feel bad for wanting a legit discussion about anything. That being said, I like Loopy a lot and do see her side of it as well.
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Old 02-27-2017, 12:53 PM   #11
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In all fairness, it was mostly ignored last Summer. TwoSwords revived it, which was fine -- he did carry on the discussion.

I guess my feeling is that there are a LOT of studies which come and purport to show something -- and most of them we never hear anything else on that topic which makes it hard to know if nobody else saw the same thing, everyone else thought the whole thing was ridiculous and ignored it, or there was corroborating evidence but it never made a splash. So as I said I'd not normally link to results of a single experiment, as it will always be possible to quibble with the results but short of doing our own experiments it is hard to gauge how useful those quibbles are.

As I said in my original post, this seemed like one of those topics that could have made a minor shit-storm in the popular media as another arrow in the fat-shaming quiver, so I wanted people to know about it before they got blind-sided by it. But I wasn't really trying to promote a lot of discussion of it because of the 'one study' factor.

Oh, and for the record, some time after posting this I did discuss the study with my wife, who did predictably have a result of mixed 'sure, blame the mother for everything!' and 'so maybe I took away some of his options in life?' :-/
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Old 02-27-2017, 01:05 PM   #12
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Perhaps it's a bit of my nihilistic nature but I do not usually try digging too deep for meaning. I'm more of a you get what you get in life so try and make the best of it. Now digging to find cures or to keep things from happening in the research world, sure thing I'm all for that. But on a personal level just trying to make sense out of the world and looking for why, well I just don't see much use in that.

I guess that's a long way of saying not to spend any time wondering what you could have done differently and especially not your bride either. Shit happens. Do your best and embrace the journey and love the differences! (Not to imply you haven't but more as another source of encouragement)
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Old 02-27-2017, 03:31 PM   #13
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I don't stress about it much, but wife is high anxiety/high guilt type, so ... yah, knew about how she'd feel about this. But I decided eventually better to have a open, controlled, discussion than have her hear something and just stew on it quietly for who knows how long. It isn't that our kid isn't amazing as he is, but as parents you always want your kids to have options and to not have obstacles. Neuro-non-typicalness tends to remove options and add obstacles, so given a choice would have made him a little more adaptable, a little less anxious, etc? ... sure. And my parents would have wished me better eye-sight and a couple more inches of height, my wife's parents that she had not inherited their tendencies towards depression, anxiety, and obesity, etc. Parents will always wish their kids had a little more, will wonder if only we had done B instead of A, had worked a little harder at C, had done D sooner and E later ....
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Old 02-27-2017, 04:08 PM   #14
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Yeah, I was pissy and I snapped at Tad about something I shouldn't have; sorry about that Tad.

But again, as much as anything, it's an interpretation thing. You guys seem to reading my tone as a lot more aggressive than I intended it, even then. It was said in a dry, deadpan, kind of semi-annoyed tone.

And this is probably a good example of what it means to be autistic; I feel like when it comes to tone and inflection, me and the rest of the world speak entirely different languages, and I'm getting and receiving the google translate version of everything.

Though incidentally, I don't need telling about how much autism can affect people; I am considered permanently disabled because of it and I actually spend my weekends volunteering with people who have a wide range of different disabilities, including autism, ADHD etc. I have been repeatedly told, by professionals, that I would never be able to live independently and that I needed to be kept in social housing. In my first year of living on my own I've accidentally set fire to things, nearly been hospitalised for hypothermia and gave myself carbon monoxide poisoning and wouldn't have noticed if not for my mother. I am well aware that autism is a disability and can have a big effect on people's lives. I also think there is a certain irony in people trying to explain autism to an autistic person and in having a go at them for being socially clumsy when it comes to tone.
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