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Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Metabolic Syndrome & Autism




Today’s post is not just about autism.

Having written 370 posts in this autism blog, I sometimes feel that I am becoming a bit of an expert on diabetes (and COPD), which you might think has nothing to do with autism.
I was talking to a friend of mine who has type 2 diabetes; he was telling me about all the other things that are going wrong with him, because he actually has “metabolic syndrome”.
What exactly is metabolic syndrome?  It really is not a very good name. Sure you can have a metabolic system, but there are going to be many different ones.  It looks like in the world of medicine there is just one.
The common problem is that in late middle age many people get overweight around their waist, they also have increased blood pressure, high blood sugar and abnormal cholesterol, or triglyceride levels. This combination of symptoms is called metabolic syndrome and it increases your risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes and much more. (see chart above, even high uric acid/gout is there)
The clever way to treat metabolic syndrome would be to treat the underlying molecular biology, rather than each symptom one by one.  This is not as hard as it may sound, just from reading about the biology of autism, I was telling my friend lots of things he could suggest to his doctor.
If you are going to take a drug to lower blood pressure, why not take the one that also protects your beta cells, the ones that produce insulin, from dying? If you are going to take an ACE inhibitor, why not take the one that will also improve your insulin sensitivity. Instead of taking a glitazone drug that is effective at lowering blood glucose, but has not been shown to reduce the long-term complications of diabetes (such as heart disease and stroke), why not take a single drug that does all three?


Metabolic Syndrome & Autism
It is not surprising to me that research shows that parents who develop metabolic syndrome have an increased likelihood of already having children with autism.
Nor is it a surprise that people with autism, or schizophrenia, have themselves a tendency to various kinds of metabolic syndrome; in fact I would suggest that autism is a metabolic syndrome, just not always the same kind.
It is not a surprise that the drugs produced to treat the classic metabolic syndrome seem to provide such a good hunting ground for autism drugs.
We know that glitazone drugs, being PPAR gamma agonists, should help some kinds of autism and also that PPAR delta agonists may help some with mitochondrial disease. The issue I have with glitazone drugs is their safety in long term use.  Another glitazone autism trial is underway in Canada. Glitazone drugs are used to improve insulin sensitivity in type 2 diabetics.
Bezafibrate is getting a well-deserved trial for mitochondrial disease. Through its action on PPAR, where it is a “pan-agonist”, it is thought that Bezafibrate should trigger biogenesis of mitochondria. Bezafibrate is an old drug to lower cholesterol.
One very interesting candidate drug for autism is Telmisartan which will be covered in a coming post on Angiotensin II in the brain.  Telmisartan is an Angiotensin AT1 agonist, which means it will lower blood pressure, but it does numerous other things. It happens also to be a PPAR gamma/delta agonist.  It improves insulin sensitivity and lower blood glucose levels.  It also modifies the immune system by reducing Il-17a, an important inflammatory cytokine found elevated in both autism and schizophrenia. It also reduces leptin release and prevents leptin resistance. Leptin levels are high in autism and leptin resistance is feature of obesity.
One of the drugs often prescribed to people with metabolic syndrome is Atorvastatin, which some readers of this blog have found improves the application of cognitive ability in their case of autism.
If I had metabolic syndrome, after losing weight, I would choose Atorvastatin, Verapamil and Telmisartan as my top three drugs; none of which are prescribed to that friend of mine. I would also add a glass of beetroot juice which is vasodilating; it is not a drug, but should do plenty of good. I would use an antioxidant like ALA (alpha-lipoic acid) and use sulforaphane to activate the body’s antioxidant genes via Nrf2; many side effects of metabolic syndrome are caused/aggravated by oxidative stress.





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