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Autism and Redheads: The Canaries in the Epidemic Part 1

Red canary By Teresa Conrick

I am a redhead, as many know, and my severely autistic daughter, Megan, is as well.  Over the years I have read articles, studies, blogs and historical accounts about autism, and it occurred to me that there seemed to be a noticeable number of redheads who also had an autism diagnosis.  For example: Time Magazine Cover, Same child in Time again, Hannah Poling, Megan Conrick.  I saw them and made a mental note but it wasn't until recently that I started to delve into why that might be.

 

So here is my hypothesis.  It includes both anecdotal evidence and published studies.  If it is possible that redheads are more vulnerable to an autism diagnosis and therefore more prevalent on the autism spectrum, I believe that looking for the reasons for that could open doors on causation and possible treatments, not only for that population but for many others.

My first thoughts about the possible mechanism that makes redheads unique had to do with obviously hair color but also skin.  Redheads are usually very fair-skinned, blue-eyed and tend to burn in the sun.  There are,  though, a "spectrum" of redheads who have some of these factors, but differ IN OTHER WAYS.  Some can have brown eyes OR green eyes and some can tan, but the majority share the common thread of LOW MELANIN. That then became my research road - melanin - and my hypothesis IS that those with insufficient or dysfunctional melanin were more at risk of succumbing to the medical and behavioral symptoms that currently are called "autism".  My initial look into this brought me to many studies which sure looked to strengthen my hypothesis.  Note that these studies tend to deal with other, yet SIMILAR, neuro-degenerative diagnoses.  Here are Parkinson's Disease and Alzheimer's Disease:

"Neuronal pigments of melanic type were identified in the putamen, cortex, cerebellum, and other major regions of human brain. These neuronal pigments have some structural similarities to the melanin found in skin. Furthermore, the resulting melanic component serves an additional protective role through its ability to chelate and accumulate metals, including environmentally toxic metals such as mercury and lead...... the neuromelanin concentration normally increases linearly with age. In Parkinson's disease, the tissue concentration of neuromelanin decreases dramatically because DA pigmented neurons are preferentially lost compared with nonpigmented ones. Reduced neuronal content of neuromelanin in substantia nigra has been reported in patients with Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, and Rett syndrome."

"New melanic pigments in the human brain that accumulate in aging and block environmental toxic metals" HERE


Well that seemed interesting and pertinent plus it included Rett's disorder, a DSM autism subset.  Much research on Rett's has been in the "just genes" domain so here was something else, like "toxic metals" and "chelate", that indicated environmental factors needed to also be addressed.  This next one then added more dimension to that idea and again included chelation (metal binding capacity) as a role of melanin:



"Sepia eumelanin is associated with many metal ions, yet little is known about its metal binding capacity and the chemical nature of the binding site(s). Herein, the natural concentrations of metal ions are presented and the ability to remove metals by exposure of the melanin granules to EDTA is quantified. The results reveal that the binding constants of melanin at pH 5.8 for Mg(II), Ca(II), Sr(II) and Cu(II) are, respectively, 5, 4, 14 and 34 times greater than the corresponding binding constants of these ions with EDTA. These observations imply the existence of channels within the melanin granules that can serve to transport metal ions."
"Ion-Exchange and Adsorption of Fe(III) by Sepia Melanin" HERE

Here then is more evidence to this theory - that individuals, redheaded or not, who have low or damaged melanin, are at risk to a host of illnesses and diseases that often are called "genetic" rather than "environmentally induced".  Autism is quite possibly one to be added to that list.  Here is another pertinent researcher seeing a connection to melanin and two different but quite probably related conditions: "Xiang Gao, MD, PhD, of Harvard Medical School, has long been investigating how melanin, which creates pigmentation, relates to Parkinson’s disease. He speculates that the two diseases (melanoma and Parkinson's) share common genetic components. In a previous study, Dr.Gao found that having light hair (a known risk factor for melanoma) puts people at twice the risk for Parkinson’s. Dark-skinned races have the lowest incidence of Parkinson’s, while Caucasians are at the highest risk."  "Melanoma and Parkinson’s — New Evidence Makes a Surprising Connection" HERE

He explains that there is a small structure in the mid area of the brain called the substantia nigra — it contains most of the brain’s dopamine and its main function concerns body motion. Hallmarks of Parkinson’s disease include loss of dopamine and highly impaired motor function. In people who do not have Parkinson’s disease, the substantia nigra is dark because it contains a high level of melanin, whereas in people with Parkinson’s, the area fades to gray or white."...... "People with light skin and red hair likely produce less melanin — and we now know they are at higher risk for Parkinson’s and melanoma."nter a recent post on Age of Autism that made me wonder more about this melanin connection: " In The Best Kind of Different, Shonda Schilling, the wife of Major League Baseball All Star, former Boston Red Sox, and World Series championship pitcher Curt Schilling, shares the story of their son’s Asperger’s Syndrome, how it changed their lives, and what other parents can learn about this increasingly common diagnosis.Shonda is a survivor of melanoma, an experience that led her to create the Shade Foundation of America."  Their son is a redhead. HERE

Here also was evidence that Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), like Parkinson's, had a connection to melanin/melanoma.

"Australian researchers evaluated rates of death in patients with ALS or PD in a cohort of 127,037 patients who were diagnosed as having a primary invasive melanoma between 1982 and 2001, and who survived for at least 1 year.

"Controversy: Melanoma and Neurodegenerative Disease"  HERE


Compared with the general Australian population, the melanoma patients had a 70% higher risk of death when ALS was present (SMR = 169.4 [95% CI, 127 to 221]) and a nearly 3-fold higher risk of death when PD was present (SMR = 266.3; 95% CI, 222 to 237]). The investigators pointed out that the consistency between these findings and those in the US population strengthened the evidence of an association between melanoma and both ALS and PD." 


This then seemed to be a road to somewhere that autism needed to be on.  I began to look for other diagnoses that like autism, had neurological-environmental implications and that overlapped.  One of those is Tourette's as we often see similar symptoms - motor and vocal tics that are often "idiopathic", very much like autism.  Here then was another redhead-melanin connection:

"Tourette syndrome occurs worldwide and the clinical features are similar irrespective of the country of origin, with genetic causes suspected, but to date not proven.  A link between red hair colour and Tourette syndrome has been hypothesised as a result of an observation that red hair is over represented in this condition. A causal association between red hair and melanocortin-1 receptor has been shown, and is the only gene that is known to explain physiological variation in human pigmentation. Melanocortins are believed to be involved in many disease states including pigmentary disorders, adrenal disorders, obesity, anorexia, prolonged and neuropathic pain, and inflammatory response"......"In this study 22, 13% (95% CI 8.9-19.4) of the Tourette syndrome population had red hair. Data from Australian studies suggests, the normal population with red hair is 2–6%. The proportions of red haired individuals in this study were significantly higher than five of the eight population control groups"....."Many Tourette syndrome patients had multiple red haired relatives, since 90 patients yielded a total of 181 relatives with red hair."

"What is the connection between red hair and Tourette syndrome?" HERE

At this point, I need to do my teacher thing and do a short lesson on melanin:


In humans, melanin is found in the skin, the hair, the eyes, the adrenal gland, the inner ear, and in pigment bearing neurons deep within the brain nuclei. Melanin is the primary determinant of human skin color. Some animals as well as humans have no or limited melanin in their bodies, which is a condition known as albinism. There are 3 types of melanin- eumelanin, pheomelanin and neuromelanin.  Both pheomelanin and eumelanin are found in human skin and hair, but eumelanin is the most abundant melanin in humans, as well as the form most likely to be deficient in albinism.  Pheomelanin is more plentiful in fair-skinned humans.  It gives a yellow to reddish hue and is found more in blonde and red hair. Pheomelanin research also shows that it may become cancerous when exposed to the ultraviolet rays of the sun.  "Melanin in humans" HERE

And this-

"Now why would light hair color yield greater risk for PD (Parkinson's Disease)? The chemical that determines hair and skin color is melanin. A major problem of PD is an abnormal loss of melanin-containing cells within the brain region that produces dopamine—the substantia nigra. Neuromelanin helps to scavenge up toxic chemicals in the brain like free radicals, active metals (eg, iron), toxic metals (eg, mercury and lead), and organic toxic compounds (eg, pesticides).

If you have less neuromelanin in the
brain you may have less protection."Do Blonds and Redheads Have More Fun?" HERE

So repeating what Dr. Gao of Harvard has reported: "
In people who do not have Parkinson’s disease, the substantia nigra is dark because it contains a high level of melanin, whereas in people with Parkinson’s, the area fades to gray or white."

Here is a study from 1998 regarding an autopsy on an adult with an autism diagnosis:

"Case 3, age 27 years-The brain weighed 1450 g. The substantia nigra looked pale." ---remember -- "In people who do not have Parkinson’s disease, the substantia nigra is dark because it contains a high level of melanin, whereas in people with Parkinson’s, the area fades to gray or white." A clinicopathological study of autism by A Bailey - 1998 HERE

Pale means not dark, so this seems significant.

And yet another melanin connection, pointing the way, back in 1989:

"The biogenic amines, dopamine, serotonin, and noradrenaline, and their respective metabolites......were measured in selected brain regions obtained at postmortem examination from 4 patients, ages 12-30 years, with typical features of Rett syndrome. These results correspond with the most consistent neuropathologic finding in Rett syndrome, reduced melanin content in neurons of the substantia nigra."

"Rett syndrome: biogenic amines and metabolites in postmortem brain"  HERE


It is absolutely outrageous that so many years have gone by and millions of dollars have been paid for gene research, showing no clues to causation, yet there have been signs of environmental toxins as a causative factor in autism spectrum disorders for over twenty years yet that type of research has been denied and under-funded.

So Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, Melanoma, Tourette's, and Autism all may share a common thread - insufficient or dysfunctional melanin - but is there more?

"Iris pigmentation (melanin) in idiopathic dystonic syndromes including torticollis" HERE


"Iris pigmentation was evaluated in 153 Caucasian patients with torticollis and other focal, segmental, or generalized dystonias of unknown cause. Since these disorders are rare in non-Caucasians, it was hypothesized that a relationship might exist between decreased melanin metabolism, reflected by iris pigmentation, and a genetic predisposition to these disorders of involuntary movement. Patients were separated into two groups on the basis of iris pigmentation. Compared to control groups, there was a statistically significant reversal in the ratio of patients with light eyes versus dark eyes."

This rings a bell.  Remember this past Fall when this story was all over the news? Another clue was that she was the recipient of a flu shot. HERE

Well, it appears that a lack of melanin can also be implicated in some of these cases. The symptom again - movement disorders of an involuntary nature - seems key.
HERE

So onward I went, looking to see what other idiopathic or genetically implied neurological and psychiatric diagnoses might also have a melanin connection.  Since I had a family member, in-law with red hair, who also had a schizophrenia diagnosis dating back to the 1960's,, I thought that too was possibly related.  I wasn't disappointed in my search:


"Skin Melanin Concentrations in Schizophrenia" The British Journal of Psychiatry (1972) HERE

"....many neurocutaneous diseases show coexistent neuropsychiatric and pigmentary disorder........The schizophrenics generally have significantly lower skin melanin concentrations than their matched controls, except at the male exposed areas.  The differences are more marked in females."

Then this:  "Epidemiological research on the occurrence of schizophrenia is reviewed, suggesting that the findings are helping researchers to pinpoint the causes of the disease.
It is noted that schizophrenia is more common in Ireland and Sweden than in Italy, Spain, Japan,or America, and that people born in the spring are more likely to be schizophrenic than those born in the fall. The research suggests the possible implication of toxins, viruses, or nutritional deficiencies being linked to geography and season." 

Torrey, E.F. (Noyes Division, St. Elizabeths Hospital, Washington, DC 20032) "Tracking the causes of madness." Psychology Today, 12 (10):78-89, 1979
HERE

That is interesting as inhabitants of Ireland and Sweden both share a similar appearance - fair skin, blue eyes, with red or blonde hair. 

This was definitely another big piece in my melanin hypothesis journey, which was starting to turn into a larger and more impressive highway rather than the one-way road I had started upon.  It sure seemed that many roads were leading to the melanin connection. Now some may say that this really is more of a Vitamin D issue than just melanin.  Maybe it is both as sunlight is needed for both. Some points related to that with my comments in parentheses:

 -  "Rain and Snow May Increase Autism Risk" -
"Counties in California, Oregon, and Washington with more than 27 inches of precipitation a year had a significantly higher prevalence of autism than drier counties  HERE (P<0.01), reported Sean Nicholson, Ph.D., of Cornell University here, and colleagues in the November issue of the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine. (Less sun equals less melanin and Vitamin D.  Also,  rain and snow bring more mercury - HERE

- "Melanin gives color to the skin, hair, and iris of the eyes. Levels of melanin depend on race and amount of sunlight exposure. Sun exposure increases melanin production." (So race, migration, location and weather would effect this)

HERE

- "Somalis living in Sweden have dubbed autism, "The Swedish disease," as it has become an increasingly common occurrence among Somali children that have moved to Sweden. One factor could be just sunlight and the effect of sunlight. At our northern latitudes we are only exposed to sufficient sunlight to build up our vitamin D for a few short summer months which explains that around half of the Swedish population suffers from a vitamin D deficiency."HERE

- "They're given more [vaccines] then we get, and sometimes they're doubled up," Harrington said. "Then their children are given immunizations. In Somalia, their generations have not received these immunizations, and then suddenly they're getting just a wallop of them in the moms and then in the babies. That's certainly a concern that's been expressed to me by the Somali population."  ( Likely mercury in the form of thimerosal, aluminum, and many live viruses) HERE


(Again lots of sun to then very sparse for the Somalis who moved there and also to Minnesota- below.)

And from a recent study on Vitamin D and autism - "In the first paper, Dr. Mats Humble and his colleagues – at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm – measured vitamin D levels on 117 adult psychiatric outpatients. They found that the 10 adult patients with autism had the lowest 25(OH)D levels of any of the other groups, including the patients with schizophrenia and depression, an average of about 12 ng/ml, a level known to cause rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults."  

"Low serum levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25-OHD) among psychiatric out-patients in Sweden: Relations with season, age, ethnic origin and psychiatric diagnosis." HERE

So it seems that sun, Vitamin D and toxins (including vaccines) are factors in this melanin theory I am proposing. A related component to all of this is that in my family's health history, my father, his sister and mother all had macular degeneration.  Macular degeneration is a devastating diagnosis as it can lead up to blindness and melanin plays a major role:

"It causes gradual loss of central vision by damaging the retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) cells that lie underneath the macula, the small region of the retina responsible for fine detail at the center of the field of vision. Without RPE cells, the photoreceptors, which are the light detectors, also die. Patients lose the ability to see detail and soon they can't read.Chemist James Norris, Ph.D., and retina surgeon Kourous Rezai, M.D., combined resources to show that melanin, a pigment found throughout the human body, acts like a neutralizing sponge inside cells in the retina to soak up and destroy reactive oxygen species. Reactive oxygen species, or free radicals, energized by light, are thought to play a major role in macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in people over the age of 60.

"We now have the first persuasive evidence that melanin plays an important protective role within the eye," said Norris, professor in the Department of Chemistry and the Institute for Biophysical Dynamics at the University of Chicago and one of the senior authors of both papers. "Although melanin contains its own intrinsic free radical, we found that it absorbs a far more damaging form of free radical, converting its destructive energy into harmless heat before it can hurt the retina.",,,,. "the team was able to capture convincing and dramatic evidence that melanin protects the retinal cells, they show that increased melanin aggregation and radical migration within melanin aggregates can protect RPE cells from free-radical damage and help prevent cell death, they demonstrate how melanin actually scavenges the harmful free radicals produced by high-energy blue or ultraviolet light as it flows into the eye, soaking them up and neutralizing their effects"......"The disorder is far more prevalent among whites than among black persons."

"RPE meets EPR - Role of melanin in preventing macular degeneration"
 HERE

So again, we see a disease where melanin plays a key part as it soaks up free radicals.  Autism also has free radicals that are harmful.  Stay tuned for Part 2, where the bridge from the highway is built to the interstate, as we journey on this autism-melanin hypothesis. 



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I have brown hair and eyes with pink skin. No autism in my mom's family but she did have mental illness as a young woman. The women on her side tend to have high blood pressure and (I think) cholesterol. She also had diabetes, which she controls with diet and got breast cancer last year. My dad has Asperger traits(never diagnosed) and I was diagnosed at 4. His dad may have undiagnosed cancer and his mom's family has many people with dementia and a cousin of his died of a brain tumor. Mom's coloring: dark brown hair (lighter shade of brown when she was a girl, my hair's more like hers than my dad's), hazel eyes(look brown) Dad's coloring: dark, almost black hair, brown eyes (mine are just like his) Not sure about my parent's skin, but we all can tan, I think. Dad, I was told as a kid looks darker in summer because he works outside, mowing and such and gets tan.

This is very fascinating. I think there is something to the recessive gene w/ red hair and Irish and auto-immune disorders. If red hair is recessive, could other recessive genetic mutations be the source of multiple auto-immune reactions of the body to destroy "foreign" antigens? I have read other comments referring to metals and chelation. My personal research also points to disregulation of the processing of a metal (iron) and the auto-immune reaction. The "cytokine storm" of a immune system "loop" continuously destroying host cells. I believe this auto-immune reaction seems to coincide w/ hypoferric anemia. Disregulation of iron by genetic mutations. Previous disregulation of iron protected the body from malaria.
If iron in the form of ferritin storage accumulates in any body part it can create Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) that destroy. A complete Iron Panel blood work could assess iron disregulation and prevent many auto-immune illnesses and autism. There seems to be a lot of auto-immune disorders that run in families that I have just read. Since WWII, iron has been "enriched" in all flour products and rice. Too much iron for genetically susceptible people?

My wife is red head...her father was/is red head...he is a Cannon 89 years old speaks and writes several language's including Hebrew...where's the defect? without boasting too much?

Well, I don't know about metals reacting differently in red heads and eating acid foods.

But red hair occurs in all kinds of races (which I did not know!) But when we think of red hair - we think of the Norse, or UK ginger people.

As for blondes - did you know that black headed poeple of European descent have red heads in their family too. That was my Maternal Grandmother's people.

I also found out that The pigment that makes your skin color called melanine - is not just skin deep. Melanine is also found deep down at the nerve level and used in the transfer of electrons or what ever at the nerve level.
Melanine is also found in the brain stem. Parkinsons; some researchers are thinking is an autoimmune disease that is attacking the melanine in that part of the brain stem.

Red hair: red hair people have a different version of this pigment melanine than the rest of the population that has the brown kind.

They are not sensitive to certian kinds of pain like cuts, (maybe that was why the Scots were considered so tough?)

But this makes them much more sensitive to ophoids.

I think that they are more sensitive to cold too.

Oh, and you talked about

There are people that have vetiligo - like Michael Jackson, my husband, my paternal grandfather (my father has parkinsons too) That is were the immune system is attacking the melanin right at the skin level.

i have a question for you i am a redhead and have a metal allergy the only other people i have met with this are also redhead or.blondes with traces of red hues. Now from what i have learn what causes this is a.high amount of acid retained in the skin and when metal comes in contact the acid breaks down or eats through the metal casing rashes. Also about myself as a child i.used to.get very ill from high acid.foods like tomatoes, pepper and spicy foods. i also have an inflamed gi system which causes discomfort 24/7 and occasionally.pain. please explain how acids affect this. and higher acids in.redheads? i would love to know your opiion. i know.thks isn't.a.question of autism but.its a.question relating redheads with other prone diseases. thank you so much.and great job. the world needs.more women like yourself!

My son is 4 years old. He has blond hair with reddish tint, pale skin, and blue eyes. He was diagnosed with Autism at 3. My stepdaughter who is 12 was questionable at age 3 but her mother never had her evaluated. She has pale skin but tans well, blue eyes and brown hair with a reddish tint. If diagnosed I believe she would be mild hince the brown hair and easily tanned skin.

That was interesting about the different types of pigments. I will have to read up on that.

I happen to also read some old blogs and ran across mine.

I said that a Kawasakis meeting held out in Oregon had some experts that said that AIDS patients did not get Kawasakis, it was the kids that had the immune system that could not get AIDS - the descendants of Black Death surviviors in Europe.

Well That is a bunch of bull. I look around for some evidence of this.

And what I found was an AIDS patient here on the net that also had full blown Kawasakis disease. THere was pictures of this poor guy and everything.

If I a no body can find this out - why in the heck was someone standing up in a meeting and declaring this bull crap.

It seems that there are some people like a little doctor, expert on Kawasakis disease out in California that is making a comfortable living off of very sick kids.

Hello,
You are absolutely right. Many research studies fail to discuss that pink skin, such as areolas, certain areas of male and female genitalia, and red hair all contain a type of melanin called Pheomelanin. Where as other skin colors and all other hair colors contain a type called Eumelanin. People with redhair not only have a ton of pheomelanin, but they have less eumelanin. When people eat cysieine, these two types of pigment respond differently. Pheomelanin responds by producing benzothiazine and benzothiazole. Benzothiazine is used to make anti-depressants and benzothiazole contains a sulfur atom. They know that peanut butter makes autistics happy-it is full of cysteine. They also know that autistics have high sulfur that causes a lot of problems. But, they have not figured out that it is in the hair! Literally shave it off! The other biggy is antibodies to lutein-your body uses this in the skin, the pineal gland, the corpus luteium-areas that are being eaten up in Autistic people. When a person gets invitro or takes fertility drugs, their offspring do not get exposed to the lutein that is in the corpus luteium. The antibodies, and the effects of sunlight, and cysteine on people with red hair are the causes of Autism! The sad thing is cysteine makes them happy, but at the same time poisons them. Altered light flow through the eyes from lack of pigments changes everything-vision is reversed, and so is the brain. look at this research study: http://www.cns.nyu.edu/events/spf/SPF_papers/Damian_SPF.pdf
Prism glasses are only 18.00 on Amazon.com

My family has Ehlers Danlos that follows the red head gene.

maybe this explains why in Canada/UK/Ireland/Aussies have rates even higher then the US? and why Minnesota has the highest state rate here? my daughter just diagnosed with PDD-NOS, is a beautiful little red haired girl. I have red hair too and some symptoms but nothing ever diagnosed or really that defined. Why do the Amish have low rates? cause they are outside working most of the year? why do babies conceived in winter have a greater chance of autism? why does the more education you have the greater the risk? greater chance that you are sitting behind a desk working somewhere instead of getting some sunshine? waiting and watching for your next report. thank you

There does seem to be a correlation. But here is another theory that may be closer to solving this puzzle: There have been connections with Vitamin D deficiency and Autism. I too am a redhead, my son ( who is autistic) is not, his father is Asian.

I have always been like a vampire in my avoidance of the sun, well, since I knew how bad it was for my skin. So I am sure that while I was pregnant I was deficient in Vit. D. I also breast fed, so there was not much D there either, though I did try to get him exposure to sunshine daily, but not much because I could not take it. He is very (clinically) knock kneed, which has been associated with D deficiency.

Oddly, one day while playing with another autistic boy from therapy, both us moms noticed that they were BOTH knock kneed to the same extent.

So one might be inclined to conclude that because red heads do not get into the sun enough to absorb the vitamin D needed, that this has a direct link to the cause of autism... I believe more research should be done here.

Of course there are cases of autism where there are NO redheads in the bloodlines, and there could still be connections to vitamin D. Perhaps vitamin D even helps the body to process other environmental toxins (?).

My mom, brother and son are all on the spectrum. My mom, myself and my son all have red hair. I have also taken note that we seem to be over represented here. I have wondered if being a redhead or having a mother that is one puts you at risk. Since redhair is a northern European trait, it would make sense that a high grain high omega-6/low omega-3 diet would be disasterous for us as well. It may be that some of us are not genetically geared to the modern "healthy" diet.

It's common knowledge amoung recovery room nurses that red-heads wake-up from anesthesia "crazy"

Kawasaki's disease, an autoimmune disease of the blood vessels is suppose to be a disease for the Asians. Although we have no Asian ancestary in our family both of my kids came down with typical and atypical Kawasaki's disease.

At a Kawasaki's conference in Portland Oregon the speakers said that they thought that the kids that came down with Kawasaki's have the same type of immune system of those people that are immune to AIDS and HIV.

The ones that are immune to AIDS and HIV are Europeans that descended from survivors of the black plague. The black plague attacked the immune system the same way AIDS and HIV does.

I am not familiar with Asian culture, did they too have epidemics for the Plague like the Eurpoeans did???

are redhaired more fertile? I often saw autistic redhaired twins.Maybe once was good not to detoxify good minerals and now in a polluted world is bad.I have a mthfr mutation so looks like I do not detoxify well,and so does my asperger son, and of course I too have irish origins
----------------------------------------
inuit population remained dark skin because even living at the north pole they ate so much fish fat rich in vit D they didn't "need" to become fair skin
Teresa you are great!please go on

I would like everyone who knows me or my grandchildren to read this series. We have: all the light hair, light eyes, Swedish and Irish heritage ( and Scottish and English);husband's father died of Alzheimer's; my mother had Parkinson's and macular degeneration? : my redheaded grandson carries a Tourettes and Asberger's diagnosis, my other grandson (same red headed father and blond, autoimmune problem mother) has severe regressive autism. I personally think vitamin D and lack of sunshine exposure is a CRITICAL factor. There is a family history of irritable bowel on my husband's side also. I have another grandson at stake: son of my redheaded, lactose intolerant, IBS daughter. And a niece about to give birth to a son of another redheaded father. Please! family and friends: read and learn!

CarolynKylesMom, Maurine Meleck - Jewish/Irish Aspies? this sounds relevant to me (a blue-eyed redhead from a family with autism, MS and CFS).
Is it possible that Celtic and Jewish simply intermarry a lot, so there are a lot of people with that mixture in their veins? Some ethnic mixes are more common than others, e.g here in the UK you find Italian/Scottish, Anglo-Indian, or white British/black West Indian mixes.

Teresa, you are so amazing to put all of this together, I hope some researchers and universities can develop it further. You have done what is supposed to be done with epidemiological research - - find common links and statistical significance and build on theories from those associations. Epidemiological research was never intended to prove or disprove anything, yet somehow our society has been duped into believing otherwise. Epidemiological research which fails to show an association is a failure in and of itself - - the whole point is to keep pursuing until something significant is identified. Then you further refine your research on the sub-population to learn more and hopefully identify cause and effect. This is why intelligent people should view epidemiological research on autism which fails to show an association as poorly designed and wasteful instead of as conclusive and valuable. Thank you again, can't wait for Part II--

Wow, the lashes I had never heard of before. My husband's heritage is Irish - he's fair and red-headed. My ASD son has had "to die for" lashes that people have been commenting on his whole life. Learn something new every day on AoA. :-)

My daughter Candace is a red-head, and has severe autism. I always thought this about red heads. Sarah Palin's sister Heather Bruce's son who has autism is a red head!! It's sad because there are so few true red-head's left, only 3% of the worlds population has red hair. Now, they are ruining them. Also, red-head's require 20% more anesthesia than any other hair color. It's the #1 most desired hair color by women, even over blond!!

@Stagmom . . . wow! My younger son has huge, translucent (almost) gray eyes with beautiful lashes.

And 40+ severe food sensitivities!!!

My mom is a "Mc-" - makes sense.

My son's hair is not red but it does have a beautiful coppery tinge to it.

It just kills me that I didn't know this stuff when he was born 13 years ago . . .

Multiple Sclerosis also seems to have a Vit D link. MS has a higher incidence rate with Northern European ancestory. Vit D is also recommended for those with MS:
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11115787

Previous studies in MS also revealed higher incidence the further you lived from the equator. This began to change ~1980 when incidence for MS began to increase at lower latitudes.
http://www.neurology.org/cgi/content/abstract/71/2/129

To Carolyn-Kyle's mom FWIW

My grandchildren(both spectrum kids) are of Jewish(my daughter) and Irish(their father)
descent. Though we know that Judaism is a religion and not a nationality.
Maurine

Research on metabolic variants, or "metabolomics" should be more relevant to understanding autism than the current focus on genetic micro-deletions and duplications.

Red hair is a highly visible marker for a particular metabolic variant (or group of variants). Phenylketonuria (PKU) was discovered and treated before the structure of DNA was known. Phenylpyruvic acid is an abnormal metabolite of an aberrant liver enzyme discovered in the urine of two siblings in 1934. Other variants of this enzyme have since been discovered. Phenylpyruvic acid is clearly toxic to the brain.

Other abnormal metabolites may be less toxic or even non-toxic, but affect the brain in combination with other stressors, especially any factor that weakens the blood-brain barrier. Bilirubin in high concentrations does not damage the brain, but following an anoxic insult stains the basal ganglia and other subcortical nuclei. I have tried many times to suggest experimentation with animals to test the effects of vaccine components and anoxia. See
http://www.conradsimon.org/files/IACC4feb2009strategy.pdf

I will keep trying. Meanwhile, the "metabolomic profile" of people with red hair might be of interest. Following is an interesting free article on metabolomics
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18684773

Very interesting. I have noticed an interesting phenomenon of a high percentage of autistic children that I know (including my son (who is not redhead but certainly has that recessive gene in his background) are products of mixed Irish and Jewish heritage. An adult aspie I know is a product of mixed French and Jewish heritige. And a Jewish Aspie I know is red headed (somewhat rare for Jewish folk). For what that's worth . . . I thought I'd pass it on. It may be irrelevant but wondering if others had noticed it. And of course every nationality under the sun has autism in the U.S (sadly).

GREAT sleuthing and fascinating research. Truly awesome original amazing stuff!

One other thing I have learned about redheads: certain pain killers work differently with redheads. This one says they are less sensitive to pain:
http://www.mcgill.ca/reporter/35/13/mogil/
This one says they are more sensitive:
http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn2923

I personally am not redheaded but have white Irish skin that glows in the dark. My son has the long lovely 'allergy' lashes that Kim's daughters have!

I'd be curious to know if you, or anyone else, finds anything on melatonin that ties in with mitochondrial disorder, since we know Hannah Poling and her mother both had it.

Very interesting sleuthing, Teresa. You're making my brain stretch.... FWIW, my son and I are light-skinned, of Northern European descent -- mostly Scandinavian. He has a patch of vitiligo on his back; mine is on my thumbs (?!).

@kr

"we once worked with an experienced TEACH therapist who in passing lifted up my son's hair and commented that he was looking for blue veins in his temple area."

My 6 year old has this too in the same spot, looks almost like a map of the LA freeway system. Neither my wife, my other son (NT) or me have it.

This is interesting. My mother was a redhead and passed from breast cancer at age 39. The tendency for ASD comes from that side of the famly.

chrisd;
I don't think so.

First there are plenty of black children, unfortunally, at the public school I taught that are autisitc.

Second - wether black, brown or white vitiligo attacks the pigment in the skin, and I did not know this pigment was also in the brain, and ears too. Whether that is important or not - who knows. But since autistic brain parts are coming out pale?????

Third - Combo thing may be going on in European descent because they do not digest wheat all that well. World War II during bread/wheat shortages, doctors noticed that child mortality rates for natural causes actually went down in Europe. So you have the wheat thing, and then the mitochondria damage/immune system interffering that can't break down long chain carbohydrates into glucose - so something extra maybe going on with the whites. Who knows. But then you have the dark skin that in a tempered climate is not efficient in making vitamin D as lighter skin. - at least I suppose that is why Northern people are white - long winters and only those lighter skins survived because they could produce vit. D.

Fourth; The red heads already do have a KNOWN problem with an inherited metabolic disease called PKU - and that disease they are lighter skinned than their parents.

Lot of questions that are unanswered.

oh any btw, my son is blonde, freckled, and green eyed

we once worked with an experienced TEACH therapist who in passing lifted up my son's hair and commented that he was looking for blue veins in his temple area. He commented when he saw that my son had visible ones that every child he had worked with had them. In hindsight is view that as encephalopathy.

So are you saying that there are more redheaded, fair autistic children than darker children?

Thank you for this fascinating post. So, is there a way to replace the pigment?

Lutein, a pigment from marigolds, is supposed to help or even reverse macular degeneration. Curcumin is a very strong pigment, I know because it has permanently stained my kitchen counter! Is this why curcumin helps with neurodegenerative disorders?

interesting hypothesis and great research. could the next question possibly be , is something happening during fetal development to decrease or inhibit melanin production in the fetus? possibly to explain the dramatic increase in children on the spectrum.

Thanks for all the interesting comments and support as it helps to strengthen this whole theory. Stay tuned for part 2. Hopefully some good can come of this, like more research and potential treatments for our kids so sick.

Here's one more...and if I keep going, there may even be a part 3 down the road.

Lipid Peroxidation in Pigmented and Unpigmented Liver Tissues: Protective Role of Melanin
MARINA SCALIA 1 , ERNESTO GEREMIA 1 , CONCETTA CORSARO 1 , CARMEN SANTORO 1 , DANIELA BARATTA 1 , GIOVANNI SICHEL 1
1 Institute of General Biology, University of Catania, 95124 Catania, Italy
Correspondence to Address reprint requests to Prof. Giovanni Sichel, Istituto di Biologia generale, Via Androne 81, 95124 Catania, Italy.
A preliminary report was presented to the 32nd National Meeting of the Italian Society for Biochemistry, September 28-October 1, 1986, abstract n. V-10.
ABSTRACT

The protective role of melanin as an antioxidant biopolymer against lipid peroxidation was investigated. In pigmented frog liver and in albino rat liver the following were tested: thiobarbituric acid (TBA) reactive material (to show the induced lipoperoxidation in vitro), fatty acids, and reduced glutathione content. Our results show that susceptibility to the in vitro lipoperoxidation induced by ferrous ions is lower in the tissue containing melanin, though the content of the polyunsaturated fatty acids is higher in pigmented than in unpigmented tissues and reduced glutathione levels are lower in pigmented tissue. Our data support the hypothesis that melanin could reduce lipoperoxidation in pigmented tissue.

Our first DAN! - the charming elderly Frank Waickman in Akron - (now deceased) told me in the Spring of 2000 that there was something about the Celtic population that was prone to food allergies. He said when he saw large, clear blue eyes and unusually lush eyelashes he knew there were GI problems and allergies. My girls have large blue eyes, lashes to die for and are Irish as well as Italian. KIM

This is depressing yet makes sense.

My son Christian is super fair with blue eyes. He is Irish + Danish. My poor guy didn't have a chance.

This is fascinating. When we saw a well known DAN dr., one of her comments was that the majority of her patients had Celtic heritage (this was 3 plus years ago). My son, now 5 1/2, was mid to high functioning but now recovering due to treatment of severe GI issues/vaccine problems, has more my family's coloring - German, Scotch-Irish, Cherokee - he had light hair that has darkened considerably (coincidence?), blue eyes and his light skin now has a farmer's tan, lol! My NT daughter has her dad's coloring: olive, dark hair, brown eyes - (dad's ancestory is Portuguese, Romanian, Irish (but northern Ireland where the Spanish armada was years ago). I have also recently read on another yahoo group about several mom's seeing their kids tanning abilities improve after being on Specific Carb Diet and having improvements. Very interesting and should be followed up. Thanks.

Connecting the dots….
Eye color and autism….
http://imfar.confex.com/imfar/2009/webprogram/Paper4955.html
Conclusions:
50% of the non-Hispanic Caucasian children who scored on the ADOS or ADI-R had blue eyes, while 12.5% had green eyes and 37.5% had brown eyes. The increased percentage of children with blue eyes in the selected study population, compared to the general population distribution, deserves further exploration. Further investigation into the genetics and physiology of melanin production, its role in the brain and iris, and the timeline of its development may allow the use of eye color as one component of a clinical phenotype for a subset of the ASD population.
-Auditory and Sensory gating…
α-MSH and MCH Are Functional Antagonists in a Central Nervous System Auditory Gating Paradigm
http://tinyurl.com/28zls7w

-Melanin-concentration hormone updated functional considerations
http://tinyurl.com/26rdzpp
that MCH itself, and other peptides derived from the same precursor, may participate in multiple functions in the central nervous system, modulating behavior and the perception of sensory information.

-Recently a study came out finding raised leptin levels in children with autism in comparison to controls.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20478355

-Melanin concentrating hormone and leptin levels/feeding, etc…
Melanin-concentrating hormone neuron system: the wide web that controls the feeding
http://www.springerlink.com/content/21284q42640v16hh/

Melanin-concentrating hormone stimulates human growth hormone secretion: a novel effect of MCH on the hypothalamic-pituitary axis
http://ajpendo.physiology.org/cgi/content/full/290/5/E982
In aggregate, these data suggest that MCH may regulate pituitary GH secretion and imply a potential cross-talk mechanism between appetite-regulating neuropeptides and pituitary hormones.

http://www.springerlink.com/content/n467462527mq68n8/

Lower Cortisol and Higher ACTH Levels in Individuals with Autism
The observed hormonal changes may indicate dysfunction of the hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal axis in individuals with autism.

I found tons of interesting information on High Copper and Low glutathione seeming to be needed to produce melanin. It’s interesting that kids with autism have low glutathione and high copper, but also aren’t producing melanin??

didn't know where else to put this but I have been trying to ask Dr. Gorski (Orac) about his undisclosed financial ties to the vaccine industry and none of my attempts have been posted. Very unusual. He must be some pissed off about Jake's reporting.

Great post and a very interesting hypothesis. As many others have thrown in their observations, let me include another. De-pigmentation (vitiligo) is also a symptom of Protein-energy Malnutrition (aka kwashiorkor).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kwashiorkor

Traditionally this disease is seen in poor countries where children don’t receive adequate protein in their diet. However, it can also occur in cases of maldigestion/malabsorption where the protein passes through the children’s digestive tract instead of being absorbed. Since most of our kids have bowel issues, there could be a link.

Our son was experiencing some di-pigmentation on his face although it didn’t occur to me at the time that it had anything to do with his ASD. His testing indicated he had very low levels of protein digesting enzymes in his stool and his urine essential amino acids were all very low. We realized that he wasn’t digesting his protein (along with other issues) and started always giving him enzymes with every meal and snack. He immediately gained weight (although he wasn’t particularly thin), improved his cognition, his color improved, and the de-pigmentation cleared up. This all happened within a month’s time.

Not sure how this may tie together. Perhaps the digestive problems lead to protein malnutrition and that leads to melanin depletion?

Interesting. So my question is, could taking something like Melanotan help in anyway?

"They hypothesized that an effective way to reduce skin cancer rates in people would be to induce the body's natural pigmentary system to produce a protective tan prior to UV exposure. The body's naturally occurring hormone α-MSH causes melanogenesis, a process by which the skin's pigment cells (melanocytes) produce the skin's pigment (melanin). They tested to see if administering this endogenous hormone to the body directly could be an effective method to cause sunless tanning."

When I think back to all the ASD kids I have met, more seem to be fair-haired and fair-skinned than not, including my own son. I too, am a fair-skinned, redhead of Irish descent. I recall meeting Dan Olmsted several years back and one of the first things he noted when he met me was how many of the parents all seemed to be of the Irish variety. It's a very interesting hypothesis and I certainly hope it gets more attention.

JB Handley

I've read that the rate of schizophrenia in southern Ireland is 4%, staggeringly high.

When I think of red heads, I think of Ireland.

If being red-headed is a factor in cases of Autism I imagine half the Irish population could be on the spectrum provided they follow the same vaccine schedule as America using the same number of Thimerosal-laced vaccines as the US has.

I forgot to mention that we all have birth marks that are white (no pigment)... similar to VITILIGO... My dad had it, I have it and both my kids have them specially the youngest!!! And recently my mother was diagnosed with VITILIGO!!!

Rock on, Teresa. Fantastic sleuthing-- really interesting about schizophrenia too. On my end of looking into it, it appears schizophrenia may have been punitively overdiagnosed in some minorities. Once patients are forcibly drugged, it would be harder to distinguish those who were wrongfully diagnosed.

There's always more to it all than meets the eye, which is why it's great you're keeping your teeth in this one.

I am mother of 2 ASD boys... I am dark hair ...but my boys are fair skin and blondish with a hint of RED and curly hair!!! And as my oldest son is getting better the hint of RED is disappearing and the curl more relaxed (went from sever to mild)!!! My Youngest still severe and hair still REDDISH and very curly... And I am a cancer survivor and after I lost my hair (CHEMO and RADIATION), it grew back curly with a hint of RED, and as I detoxed my hair is not as curly and getting dark again!!! Could the RED tint ant curly texture be a sign of TOXICITY!!! I must also tell you that for a while I lost my short term memory along with other health issues... which are almost all back to "normal" after LONG DETOX TREATMENTS!!! Hmmmm....

P.S. I am keeping my eye on the youngest... specially on his hair color and texture!!! Am I making sense?!!!

I haven't had time yet to read all those studies you have here, but I am wondering at this point-where do green eyes fall in the production of melanin? I read somewhere that a person with green eyes would have less than someone with blue eyes (of course not taking into account hair and skin color)
Is that true?
Thsi is great. I love the research, Teresa. thanks.
maurine

This is fascinating, I learned quite a bit, Teresa. Based on this and another recent post on AoA, why can't we investigate Hg and other metal toxicity by skin biopsy? It should be quite easy. Physicians, scientists, what say you?

It seems like you have done quite a lot of research. Such an interesting hypothesis. I always said it would take a MOM to help figure this epidemic out. It makes me so angry that the FUNDED researchers blindly follow the useless genetic theory. How many of our children could be cured in the near future or how many could be saved if these individuals would do the right thing!
Excellent report Teresa! Thanks!

Like raindrops on a roof, dripping down the gutter, flowing into the streams, it becomes the rush of the rivers, racing toward the thunderous falls, and I lift my face in joy to the wet mist . . . the flow of intelligence.

When my husband had his amalgam fillings put in at age ten, he developed digestive problems and psoriasis. He's fair skinned, blonde hair and has blue eyes. His family is full of neurodegenerative diseases such as parkinson, alzheimers, and bipolar. I consider these just different names for mercury poisoning.

My family is all dark haired and olive skinned but me. I have dark eyes and dark hair but fair skin that didn't tan at all until I had my amalgams removed. There are no neurodegenerative diseases in my family (except my son) but lots of heart disease. Seems my family hold their mercury in their heart.


My ASD son is dark haired, green eyed and fair skinned. He was ghostly white. The more we chelate him the more color he gets to his skin.

I think that fair haired and fair skinned people are just more sensitive.

Recently I heard Dr. Kendall Stewart on a podcast on Autism One talking how a relatively small portion of the population cannot tolerate medication in any amount. He said these are generally of Northern European decent, particularly those of Celtic background.

I am one of these people. Though my hair is brown I have the skin and freckling of a readhead and my paternal grandmother was a 1st generation redhead of 100% Irish decent. I cannot take medication, even in children's doses, without debilitating side effects. I also have 30 food allergies. I have Non Verbal Learning Disorder (similiar to Aspergers, but milder) and my son has Autism. He is sensitive to everything just like me and had adverse reactions to all his vaccines.

I also read somewhere that redheads and some Northern Europeans are more prone to difficulty breaking down oxalates, which can trigger Mast Cell activation problems.....I have these problems and so does my son (blonde and fair skinned, but still is Irish on both mine and husband's side.

It is to the point that whenever I see a couple where either mom or dad is redhead, especially if they are 40ish and pregnant, I just shake my head a pray for that baby, esp if they plan to vaccinate. Same thing when I know a parent is pregnant and has an autoimmune condition. 3 babies born to friends in the last 5 years under these circumstances - sure enough all three were later diagnosed on the Spectrum and I worried about their risks from the time these babies were in the womb. That is an eerie feeling to be right like that. If I could figure that out why can't the doctors?

I have twin (caucasian) five year old boys, one dark-skinned and dark hair with greyish eyes, the other blonde with red-toned light skin and baby blue eyes. My son with dark features (from his mother) shares her blood type and has no spectrum disorders. Yet, my fair-featured son shares my blood-type and has autism. My paternal family carries a long history of melanoma and related skin illness due to sun-exposure (occured in Texas) all with fair-skin conditions. When I saw this article it definately raised my brow to the possible connection and I feel there is more to this and I would like to know more. My dna haplotype suggests origins in the Normandy Coast and Scandinavia areas. These facts seem to substantiate what I am reading here.

Morning-

Thanks Allison and Benedetta for your helpful comments. Keep them coming everyone as this is a topic that is under-studied and I think there is much evidence showing much more is needed.

I thought the vitiligo history in your family was very interesting (as well as Kawasaki and Mitochondria), Benedetta so just was looking that up and found this site. Thought it was pertinent:

http://www.stopcallingitautism.com/vitiligopictures.php

This is very interesting.

Both of my kids on the spectrum have VERY light blonde hair. One has green eyes and the other crystal blue eyes.

My neurotypical child's hair, while light, is considerably darker than the other 2's. Her skin tone is also darker and she has deep dark brown eyes.

I messed up on the Kawasaki part of my post.
My daughter as she lay in the hospital bed, the areas that were exposed to the sun is what reacted the most and showed up FIRST.
They showed up as a bright red rash.
The red rash is caused by inflammation of the capillaries under the skin.

That is okay Kim the Stag,

When it comes to redheads the main disease I always think of is a tendency toward PKU, the inability because of lacking an enzyme to break up a certain amino acid. This occurs in 1 out of 10,000. They do have a blood test, and require all children to take this test about a week after birth, they poke the baby's foot and get some blood. If you look up PKU, it even says that children are paler than thier parents.

An autoimmune disease does exist for pigment of skin. It is called vitiligo.
My husband has it, and my paternal grandfather had it.

My husband also an an aquired mitochondria myopathy too, his muscles are wasting away and he is losing weight. My grandfather weighed - a lot - and I think he had hypothyroidism.

The areas on the skin that the immune system has attacked are very white, and they will turn red once they are exposed to the sun, only to be turned back to white.

This is really prominent on a person of color. Esp. blacks. It really shows up. Micheal Jackson said that was why he wore a glove, and why he went all white - lightening creams with mercury (so I have been told here on AoA)

When my duaghter had Kawasaki's - it was July. She had been in her little bikini. As she laid in the hospital bed, the areas Not that the sun was the cause, it was the vaccine - we would not even had the issuse if not for the vaccine.

The pieces match, my son's has one portion of one of his eyes that we thought was blue. But recently a specialist ruled that it looked like serious injury had completely removed the melanin from that area. He also has some slight pig-mental discoloration.

In researching I found it is also something found in the inner ear and known to cause hearing dysfunction. My son, after vaccine regression, lost the ability to hear the difference between speech and noise. No visible ear issues have been found however they always hurt.

The list of pieces that fit go on and on. And although we are very dark haired, my son's skin during the early toddler years was almost translucent. I can tan well, but my son can be in the sun all day and barely get anything.

This is an important puzzle piece, I'd love to see some scientific movement on this!!

Thank you Teresa

Benedetta and Chapnalli - I had to revise the URL link for this post and we lost your comments. I apologize. I sent you an email with your verbiage so you can repost. Thanks.

KIM

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