Understanding Autism: Genetic, Environmental Factors

Dr. Jennifer Ashton discusses the latest research on the disease.
2:41 | 11/22/12

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Transcript for Understanding Autism: Genetic, Environmental Factors
Joining us, now, is senior abc contributor, dr. Jennifer ashton. This is a controversial topic. But listening to kelly talk about this raises the question of, are children born with autism that develops as they get older? 2, 3, 4 years of age? Or is it something they contract in their life? And this is an exciting time in autism research because every day, we're learning more and more. We think at this point that there are multiple factors at play. In the past, people had heard, it's a genetic factor. An environmental factor. Today, the current thinking is it is a combination of both. Something an environment triggers the genetic predisposition. Or two separate factors. The interaction will be different and the results may be different in each child. But it's how those two, the jeanetgenetic and the environment, interact to predispose someone for autism. You heard kelly talk about how she feels the exposure of chemicals caused the autism to take hold. She had antibiotics while she was breast-feeding. And that may have been a contributing factor. I had the same condition after giving birth to my oldest son. And he's fine. She's doing what every parent is doing. They're asking questions and looking for answers. What's particularly interesting and exciting in autism research today, is the focus on food. That falls under the environmental category. And I spoke to two leading autism researchers who agreed, the three questions being asked now in terms of research and food and the interaction, are we ingesting foods or consuming foods that contain toxins? Are there nutritional deficiencies, like a folic acid deficiency? And does this disrupt the metabolism and the way the brain functions? This is going to be ongoing in research. We don't have all of the answers yet. If every parent could afford to feed their kids organic, chemical-free food, we all would. But it's cost-prohibitive for a lot of people. It is. If you're a concerned parent, you want to try to eat from the farm, not the factory. Read labels. Do the best you can. If you have a child that's been diagnosed or on the spectrum, put together a team of experts, if you can, with yourself as the quarterback. And that will include physicians, nutritionists, developmental experts. And every parent has to do the best they can. jenny McCarthy, who I just interviewed recently, another one that believes diet has a major factor. A lot of times, food is medicine. We're going to be hearing a lot more about this.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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