Updated: Aug 20, 2019
A recent article on the Medical Express website sheds light on a new study at The University of Central Florida showing the link between the food pregnant women consume and the effects on a fetus' developing brain.
Specifically, the researchers discovered how high levels of Propionic Acid (PPA), used to increase the shelf life of packaged foods and inhibit mold in commercially processed cheese and bread, reduce the development of critical neurons in fetal brains.
Dr. Saleh Naser, who specializes in gastroenterology research at the College of Medicine's Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences, launched the study after reports showed that autistic children often suffer from gastric issues such as IBS.
Dr. Naser wondered about a possible link between the gut and the brain and began examining how the microbiome—or gut bacteria—differed between people with autism and those who do not have the condition.
His subsequent findings showed that exposing neural stem cells to excessive PPA damages brain cells and also shorten and damage pathways that neurons use to communicate with the rest of the body.
While previous studies have proposed links between autism and environmental factors, Drs. Naser say their study is the first to discover the molecular link between elevated levels of PPA, proliferation of glial cells, disturbed neural circuitry and autism.
So what action can expecting mothers take to mitigate the risks posed by PPA exposure? The easiest way is to immediately eliminate packaged food, processed cheese and store-bought bread from from their diet in favour of healthy options.