June 26, 2019 — Consuming processed foods during pregnancy may be linked to a higher risk of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in children, early research suggests.   Researchers from the University of Central Florida (UCF) College of Medicine in Orlando found that high levels of propionic acid (PPA) — used in processed foods to extend shelf life — change nervous system development in the fetal brain.

The study links maternal PPA exposure to “possible precursors for autism,” say the researchers, who were led by Saleh Naser, PhD.   “This is an intriguing finding and a first in the field,” they add, cautioning that much more research is needed.

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