Autism Starts as Mitochondrial Deficiency, Step One

April 16, 2023

Autism is a Condition of Mitochondrial Insufficiency - Step One

This is a bit geeky but if you dive into this and understand it, you actually are getting the foundation for almost all brain diseases. Really, All! I want to learn and take you along for the ride. Here is the science.

We have known this for decades. Studies from the 1970s first showed some of the data. Let me explain.

If your mitochondria are overwhelmed and can't process the calories being pushed into them, your mitochondria can't handle all the electrons being thrust at them with no ADP to pull the electrons away. Where that backs up is with TOO much NADH, instead of NAD+. This explains why sugars and easily digested white flour products make autism worse. Those electrons spin away outside the mitochondria and attach themselves to Oxygen Molecules that get changed into peroxide. That will damage membranes if not contained. Measuring the mechanisms of containment all show that kids with autism are fighting that battle and losing. For example, the first line of defense with free electrons is a protein called superoxide dismutase (SOD). It gets induced and autistic kids have much higher levels of it in their blood, meaning they are losing the battle. The next enzyme of protection is called catalase. It is not inducible and it just gets used up. SOD wasn't enough and now catalase levels have dropped in half. Guess what happens to autistic kids? Yup, they have low, low levels of catalase. They are fighting a mighty battle, and not keeping up. 

The next line of defense against those overwhelming electrons is glutathione. It too can suck up and repair too much peroxide. But it too can't match the flood of excess oxidizing electrons. The poor autistic brain is off balance and glutathione levels plummet. What is a unique finding from this study in Syrian kids was that their siblings, without autism, were also low in glutathione, suggesting some level of genetic risk that hadn't presented clinically yet. Those siblings are on the verge of symptoms are for whatever reason aren't affected. 

The final defense of brain membranes is plasmalogens. They can neutralize peroxide, but the price is high. You lose a whole plasmalogen molecule and deplete your brain's ability to myelinate the axons. Considering that plasmalogens make up 70% of the myelin lipids protecting axons, losing them results in less myelin. 

Now we get to the final step into trouble. All the defenses against those free electrons are overwhelmed, and OH- now attacks nerve membranes. OH- will damage a double bond in cellular membrane plasmalogens and make malondialdehyde. What do you find in autism? Instead of a level of 5 found in normal kids, autistic kids will have a malondialdehyde of 20. Their asymptomatic siblings will be just a tiny bit lower.

Once you have damaged membranes and high levels of malondialdehyde, you start to activate microglia, the attack dogs of your central nervous system. They go to work to do what they are meant to do, clean up what they think is a mess. But it's not a mess. It's a little kid's brain. And that child can't break the cycle.

There you have it. This is irrefutable science, clearly documented with well-done research. It just feels overwhelming. Next week I will explain the microglial activation and how it plays out. And hang in there. The week after will be the protocol of how to go about addressing it.

You can download Goodenowe's very elegant chapter on the biochemical basis of autism and read it in great detail, if you so wish.

www.What will Work for me. I want to learn this in detail and share it as far and as wide as I can. I think this is thrilling science. What I find unique is the commonality of the pathway with almost all brain diseases. Autism is what happens in kids. Long COVID and brain fog is an adult brain on its way to autism if the cycle isn't broken. But sugar has a clear pathway to causing NADH do any foods that make your glucose go up too fast. The commonality with Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson's, ALS, Alzheimer's is startling. In fact, if you look at manic depressive disease, ADD, drug find the same pathway and pathology. I can help my burdened mitochondria by avoiding sugar and white flour. Taking Acetyl-L-carnitine, glutathione, CQ10, B12, B6 and folate are all mitochondrial support supplements. Now you know part of why they are good for you too.

References: Frontiers Nutrition, Free Radic Biol, Med, Maedica, Goodenowe, Eur Arch Psychiatry Clin Neurosci, Biomarker Insights, J. Nutrition,

Pop Quiz

1. What is the first step in the autistic brain to making damage? Answer: The failure of the mitochondria to manage the flood of calories in the form of too many glucose molecules. Like your gasoline siphon for your spare gas tank overflowing because the gas station pump pumps too fast.

2. Is someone to blame for that? Answer: NOOOOO! There is obviously some genetic component but the increase in incidence of autism tracks our nation's consumption of sugar pretty closely. 80% of our packaged foods have added sugar. We live in a dangerous sea of calories.....with sugared drinks high on the list. Any "blame" to be had is the food industry that stuffs sugar into everything.

3. How come I haven't heard this before? Answer: It is overwhelming in its complexity. There are hundreds and thousands of articles. Pulling it into focus is Dr. Goodenowe's gift.

4. Are there easy blood tests I can get on my family to prove they are safe? Answer. Well, yes. You can now measure glutathione and malondialdehyde.

5. Is there something I can start with right now for my affected child, or my nephew with OCS, or Asberger's, or manic depression, or, or or. Answer; Yes. Start with finding ways around sweet foods and white flour. Dairy probably sets off brain inflammation as well if it is from A1 cows. Only A2 milk or cheese.