Breastfeeding, Infant Formula Supplementation, and Autistic Disorder: the Results of a Parent Survey.
Schultz ST, Klonoff-Cohen HS, Wingard DL, Akshoomoff NA, Macera CA, Ji M, Bacher C.
ABSTRACT: BACKGROUND: Although autistic disorder is associated with several congenital conditions, the cause for most cases is unknown. The present study was undertaken to determine whether breastfeeding or the use of infant formula supplemented with docosahexaenoic acid and arachidonic acid is associated with autistic disorder. The hypothesis is that breastfeeding and use of infant formula supplemented with docosahexaenoic acid/arachidonic acid are protective for autistic disorder. METHODS: This is a case-control study using data from the Autism Internet Research Survey, an online parental survey conducted from February to April 2005 with results for 861 children with autistic disorder and 123 control children. The analyses were performed using logistic regression. RESULTS: Absence of breastfeeding when compared to breastfeeding for more than six months was significantly associated with an increase in the odds of having autistic disorder when all cases were considered (OR 2.48, 95% CI 1.42, 4.35) and after limiting cases to children with regression in development (OR 1.95, 95% CI 1.01, 3.78). Use of infant formula without docosahexaenoic acid and arachidonic acid supplementation versus exclusive breastfeeding was associated with a significant increase in the odds of autistic disorder when all cases were considered (OR 4.41, 95% CI 1.24, 15.7) and after limiting cases to children with regression in development (OR 12.96, 95% CI 1.27, 132). CONCLUSIONS: The results of this preliminary study indicate that children who were not breastfed or were fed infant formula without docosahexaenoic acid/arachidonic acid supplementation were significantly more likely to have autistic disorder.
The methodology looks OK. For anyone interested in environmental factors in autism, there you go. Nutrition and brain development appear to be related (no kidding). It even looks like there's a stronger correlation of lack of EFA supplementation to regressive autism.
This puts a recent double-blind study of EFAs in perspective. So for anyone interested in "biomed" interventions, there you go.
There are prior studies on lactation supplementation and neurological outcomes in the general population. See, for example, Birch et al. (1999) and Helland et al. (2003).
I would not say that reduced EFA supplementation causes autism, but it probably makes a diagnosis more likely.