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Surprising new study finds little association between mercury and child autism. But is there more to the story?
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Hey, hey, welcome to another episode of the SNA Health Class. Yuri Elkaim here with you, and today we are going to be exploring, reexploring the association between mercury and autism. If you have kids or if you’ve debated getting vaccines or not and you’ve kind of contemplated are vaccines dangerous, is mercury deadly, all this kind of stuff, I’ve got some very, very eye-opening information for you today, so be sure to stick with me right to the end, because not only are we going to look at a new study that is a little bit flawed, but I’m also going to bring you up to speed on incredible research, a review of the literature, which gives us a much better picture of this mercury and autism question. Sit tight, grab a green juice or a smoothie, and let’s get into it.
We’re going to start off with this first study that came out as of July 23 in the journal Epidemiology. Essentially what they found was that—well, first of all, they were looking at a population of pregnant women who obviously gave birth afterward in the Republic of Seychelles. Seychelles is a small, tiny island off the east coast of Africa in the Indian Ocean; right there, very isolated, not really consuming the average fare, if you will, compared to the Western world.
They followed these women for about 30 years, and what they found was that children exposed to low levels of mercury in the womb because their mothers ate large amounts of fish during pregnancy did not appear to be at increased risk for autism. They basically found that the women, on average, were eating up to 12 meals of fish each week during pregnancy, and according to that, there were no issues with autism in their offspring, in their kids. They did this by analyzing the mothers’ hair samples, then they followed that up with two questionnaires both to the parents and to the children’s teachers to see if they had any kind of autism-like behaviors and whatnot.
They definitively say there was absolutely no relationship between mercury and autism in this case. My initial thing here is that they don’t really go into what the levels of mercury were in the pregnant women. They said they analyzed the mothers’ hair samples, but they didn’t say what the results of that was. They didn’t say, “We found that there were low levels of mercury n the mothers’ hair samples, and therefore, obviously there’s going to be very little correlation to autism in their kids.”
Here’s my thing. I’m thinking if this was done, let’s say, off the East Coast of the U.S. or anywhere in North America where we’re getting farmed fish or higher levels of mercury in wild fish, I would be surprised to see these kinds of findings, again, 12 meals of fish per week in a Westernized country, to see similar results of this. Small, little island called the Republic of Seychelles, isolated in the Indian Ocean, where, most likely, most of their fish is freshly caught, local, and not subject to a lot of the pollution and different kinds of farming practices that so many of our fish are. Again, that’s my speculation. I don’t know if that’s necessarily the case, but that’s kind of the thing that really stood out for m in this study.
They wanted to show that there’s no problem for women to eat fish, because the issue was fish is an issue because it has mercury in it; therefore, don’t eat it if you’re pregnant, because you don’t want your kids to have mercury poisoning and all sorts of other issues that can relate to it, which we’ll talk about in a second, autism being one of them. My problem with these kinds of studies is that, again, it’s such a microcosm of a very unique situation where we’re not really seeing, I don’t think, these kinds of fresh-caught fish maybe with lower levels of mercury in the Western world.
The other thing that really stood out for me is that this was funded by the U.S. National Institute of Environmental Sciences, which, according to their branch chief, has been a major supporter of research looking in to the human health risks associated with mercury exposure. I don’t know what their agenda is here. I don’t know if their agenda is backed by “let’s show stuff where mercury is safe for human consumption” as opposed to “let’s show why mercury is a problem.”
Let’s kind of dissect this a little bit. You see this in the news, who knows? It comes on TV and says there’s no problem with eating fish; there’s no issue with mercury; your kids are not going to become autistic if they are exposed to mercury. Well, I did some digging around, and, again, my first inclination here is that, first of all, mercury is one of the top seven neurotoxins as described by the EPA, the Environmental Protection Agency.
First of all, mercury is neurotoxic. Therefore, we should look at minimizing our intake of mercury, especially methylmercury and ethylmercury, which are the most common types. The problem with heavy metals in general and the problem with most toxins is that they are neurotoxic, which means that they have an affinity for the nervous system. Specifically, they impede proper brain development.
Let’s look at why autism comes about, first of all, because is it that mercury causes autism, or is it that mercury triggers something inside of susceptible individuals to obviously create full-blown autism? Some people, some authors assume that the increase of autism might be caused by the worldwide increase of mercury exposure through fish and industrial sources such as dental amalgams and especially increased parental or mother exposure to thimerosal, which is a component of vaccines, which is about 50 percent mercury.
Thimerosal was first brought to the market by Eli Lilly, which is a pharmaceutical company, back in 1931 as a preservative in vaccinations. That’s the first thing to consider. Some people believe that because we have more mercury now, it’s causing this autism association.
Let’s look at some numbers. Does this make sense? Well, in the U.S. the prevalence of autism has become an epidemic, with an increase of about 5 in 10,000 kids to 60 in 10,000 kids after three additional thimerosal-containing vaccines were introduced for newborns in the early 1990s.
Compare that to other countries such as Germany or Denmark, which have a much lower prevalence of autism. In these countries thimerosal was reduced at the same time, not increased by threefold, like in the U.S. Interesting correlation. Again, this is not cause and effect but it’s correlational.
What else? This is actually pretty crazy. This situation is very similar to an epidemic of what was called acrodynia in the last century, in the early 1900s, which affected about 1 out of 500 infants in many industrial countries. What they found was that after removing a frequently used teething powder which contained mercury as calomel, acrodynia disappeared. What’s interesting is that calomel is actually one of the least toxic forms of mercury when given orally. And if we compare that to the mercury found in thimerosal, for instance, it’s about a hundredfold less toxic.
Here we have an epidemic which was affecting 1 out of 500 kids about a hundred years ago, and simply by removing this teething powder which contained a very, very nontoxic form of mercury, they eradicated it. But for some reason, we are now increasing more vaccinations into our kids, which still contain thimerosal, for whatever reason. We’ll look at that a little more in just a second.
Nineteen ninety-nine, it was recommended by the U.S. Public Health Service and the American Academy of Pediatrics to remove thimerosal from vaccines. Despite that, the CDC and the World Health Organization still recommend and promote the use of thimerosal in vaccines in border or undeveloped countries. And probably still within most developed nations as well.
It’s crazy when you see this kind of stuff. It just makes no sense. At least it makes no sense to me why they would continue putting this stuff into vaccines if we know that mercury is a neurotoxin which affects brain development and nervous system development. Again, we don’t necessarily know if it’s cause and effect with autism, but there is a strong correlation. In spite of what recent research, like this study I just talked about, might show.
You have to understand there’re a lot of flaws and a lot of shortcomings in a lot of the research. For instance, there is no single study which compares the health of individuals exposed versus never exposed to mercury, from amalgams or thimerosal, for instance. With the exception of one study, but, again, the results from that one study are kind of debatable.
It’s very, very tricky. You go to your doctor and they say they say there’s no correlation between this and autism. You read the latest thing in the news; there’s no correlation. You follow some mothers groups, and they’re all antivaccine because their kid had one shot, and they became autistic and so forth and so on.
You don’t know what to believe, and it’s very, very, very confusing. Again, there could be, in cases of autism, there could be genetic risk factors. There could be a polymorphism which just genetically increases the risk of autism, and then with some kind of trigger, like low levels or even high levels, of mercury can set a kid off. Sometimes when we see these case studies of a family, they go to the doctor, they get a vaccine, boom, the kid has autism the next day, it can sometimes be blown out of proportion, but at the same time, we have to understand that mercury is not safe even at low levels in the human body.
The Institute of Medicine of the U.S. concluded recently that there is no relationship between thimerosal and autism and that no further studies should be conducted to evaluate the relationship between thimerosal and autism. How close-minded is that? The Institute of Medicine is recommending no further studies should be conducted to even evaluate this situation. What are they scared of?
And this was done in spite of several biological studies reporting thimerosal to have toxic properties that made it a major suspect for the recent autism epidemic. And there were no biological studies presented that did not show major toxic effects of thimerosal when this information was presented to the Institutes of Medicine of the U.S. Again, this is talking with boards like the FDA, the National Institutes of Health, the CDC. No studies were presented that did not show major toxic effects of thimerosal. Yet this is being shut down for whatever reason.
Anyways, this review of the literature, which was presented in the journal Neuroendocronology Letters back in 2005, said, “Let’s do something about this. Let’s go into the literature and actually see what’s happening.” They did a huge search. They brought together all these different studies, and they wanted to see what is actually happening.
They found some interesting stuff. They looked at mercury levels of hair of autistic kids. Some studies showed that the mercury in hair samples of autistic kids were actually lower than in controls. Some other studies showed higher than controls. They weren’t really sure what to make of that.
One of the things that really stood out, at least for me—and I think this is very important to touch on—is that autistic kids, autistic children tend to have impaired mercury detoxification pathways, which means that if they are exposed to mercury, their body is not able to get rid of it as readily as nonautistic people. This is possibly due to a genetic polymorphism that I just mentioned.
Autistic kids have 20 percent lower plasma levels of cysteine and 54 percent lower levels of glutathione, both two very, very important amino acids in the detoxification pathway of heavy metals like mercury. Obviously, this can lead to higher levels of mercury in the body, especially in the nervous system, and it also means that they have a longer half-life, so it takes longer for them to get out of the body compared to children with normal levels of cysteine and glutathione.
That’s very interesting because if the body’s not able to get rid of mercury, then it’s allowed to kind of stay in and do more of its damage. That’s a big thing that has come up in the research. It’s pretty profound.
What else should I mention to you? There’s also this other theory that autism may be triggered by autoimmunity. It could be an autoimmune disease whereby it’s triggered by bacterial antigens, dietary peptides, so proteins in foods, and, again, mercury exposure. If this were the case, then somebody who has this susceptibility in the right environment with an improper diet, let’s say, and maybe one or two vaccines could be more susceptible to developing autism at a young age.
Overall, the conclusions from this review of the literature was that all of the data that they looked at, all these long-term, big studies appear to show that repetitive mercury exposure during pregnancy through thimerosal and dental amalgams specifically—again, they’re not talking about fish here—and after birth—through, again, thimerosal-containing vaccinations—in genetically susceptible individuals is one potential pathogenic factor in autism. And other metals and toxins that are present in vaccines along with the right kind of hormonal makeup may have a synergistic effect with mercury.
It’s tough to isolate one thing in the human body. There’re so many different moving parts and everything works synergistically, so it’s tough to know for sure if it’s this or that. Again, as I mentioned, there are very, very few properly controlled studies looking at people with no mercury versus people that have mercury. It’s very, very tough to do that in a world where pretty much all of us have levels of mercury. You can’t control this stuff in a laboratory setting.
The recommendation is: Given the widespread use of mercury in medical products, including vaccines and so forth, and even fish, even fish that are wild-caught or farmed. We really need to consider levels of mercury. Even though it’s not, this is not something that affects you tomorrow, this is something that builds up in the body over time, if you’re one of those susceptible individuals genetically, that could be a big problem. It’s very tough to know unless you get tested somehow, and I’m not even aware of any special tests that can test you genetically for this susceptibility.
I remember a couple years ago, the EPA, the Environmental Protection Agency, on their Web site had—they might actually still have this—on their Web site they had how many cans of tuna it would take to eat to exceed your mercury exposure over the course of a week. When I was growing up, I was eating tuna, like, one can a day. I put in my information, and, based on my weight, my upper limit of mercury was reached after half a can of tuna. Half. I was eating maybe five to six cans a week.
Okay, so I might have some mercury issues that need to be detoxified. Thankfully, my diet is pretty clean. I use things like chlorella to help pull heavy metals out of my body, and, hopefully, I’m a little bit healthier now.
Nonetheless, mercury in the body—it’s not only autism, right? Mercury directly impedes thyroid hormone. It binds to thyroid hormone receptors inside the body. What that means is that if you’ve got an underactive thyroid, well, we might be looking at a mercury issue. If you have dental amalgams or if you’re taking vaccines with thimerosal in them, all this mercury that is being built up in your body will bind to thyroid hormone receptors, and if thyroid hormone can’t do its job, then your metabolism slows, and all sorts of other issues happen. You find it tough to lose weight, blah, blah, blah, and so forth.
It’s not just about autism. Mercury is a neurotoxin. It affects us big-time. I don’t really care what the latest research shows about “mercury has no affect on children,” blah, blah, blah. Believe me, it does at some level, at some point in time. I’m not going to be exposing my kids to vaccinations with thimerosal. They’re not going to be eating copious amounts of fish. They’re not going to be getting dental amalgams; none of the doctors use them anymore with mercury in them anyways. You need to know this stuff.
I wanted to present something that was a little bit less biased, hopefully more objective than a lot of the individual studies that come out. this review of the literature shows us that there are some significant studies that are showing some issues with, first of all, the research that’s being done, the bigger governmental bodies that do not want to see, for whatever reason, mercury taken out of vaccines, and they actually want to shut down further research along these lines. That kind of poses a huge question mark for me as opposed to the…it’s just crazy.
I’d love to know your thoughts on this. This is obviously a very hotly debated topic area, right? Mercury, autism, vaccinations, autism, blah, blah, blah. I would love to hear your feedback on this. I know we’ve talked about this with Dr. Isaac Jones; we talked about vaccinations on one of our earlier episodes.
I would like you to join me over at the blog, SuperNutritionAcademy.com/blog, and I would love to hear your feedback. Have you vaccinated yourself, your kids? Do you know of any stories, immediate family or other people, who have been negatively affected by vaccinations? What are your thoughts about this?
Again, I’m not saying either way is the wrong way to do it. Everyone has their own personal opinion and choice. I want to get a conversation going to see where people are at with this. Once again, thanks for joining me. Join me over at the blog. Look for Episode 78, where we talk about mercury and autism.
In the meantime, don’t forget to leave us a rating and review on iTunes so we can get this information out to more and more people. Again, I really appreciate all the amazing feedback we’ve had. Just before we leave I’m going to read off one or two reviews we’ve had on the podcast so far. I want to really acknowledge you guys because it means a lot to me that you guys take a couple minutes out of your day to hop on to iTunes, to find the podcast, and to leave a review, and that’s the only way we can continue to keep this growing.
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Until then, I hope you have a great day. Limit your mercury exposure and I’ll see you in the next episode.
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