There is a "considerable association" between low zinc levels and autism spectrum disorders, Japanese scientists have claimed.
Experts from Tokyo looked at zinc levels in the hair of almost 2,000 children with autism and Asperger's syndrome. The study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, found that almost a third of the children were deficient in zinc. The lowest levels of zinc were recorded in the youngest children. One two-year-old boy had just one-twelfth of the expected amount of zinc, for example.
The researchers claim that infants need more zinc for development than older children, and that a lack of zinc during infancy could be involved in the development of autism. The scientists hope "a nutritional approach may yield a novel hope for its [autisms] treatment and prevention." However, British experts have said more research is needed.
Professor Dorothy Bishop of the University of Oxford, told the Daily Mail: "If zinc deficiency is confirmed in future research, then it remains unclear whether this is a cause of autism, or rather reflective of dietary abnormalities. "Many children with autism will eat only a restricted range of foods and some have a habit of chewing on inedible objects."