New research suggests a high-calorie, high-protein diet may improve the outcome for some service members with brain injuries due to battlefield explosions.
The Pentagon spends billions of dollars trying to detect and avoid improvised explosive devices in Iraq and Afghanistan, but traumatic brain injuries (TBI) have become an expensive and troubling legacy of the wars -- responsible for a variety of injuries and long-term problems for military service members.
An Institute of Medicine report released Wednesday says improvements in nutrition may offer benefits just after a blast injury and calls for immediate changes.
DR. MARTHA HERBERT: I don't think there's any one cause of autism. I would lay money that we will not find one thing. We certainly haven't found one gene; we're finding hundreds of genes. We're finding boutique genes. We're finding genes that kids have and the parents don't have -- their own parents. I think that there are a lot of things environmentally that are overwhelming our ability to cope, metabolically, that are overwhelming our immune system. And the synergy -- the collective impact of that is to deplete our protective systems. And I think that's what's causing autism.
DR. CRAIG NEWSCHAFFER: But I think the emphasis on genetics probably has been correct, at least as we think about the unfolding of our understanding of what causes autism. And I think over time, we realized that in addition to these genetic components, there is room for and probably just cause for investigating the environmental. So we're swinging around.
DR. GERALD FISHBACH: First, there's no question that autism is a genetic disorder. That does not mean the environment is not tremendously important, because it is also clear that the genetics are complex. We're looking at the Simons Foundation for what are called de novo mutations -- mutations that arise anew in the germ cells of one or the other parent, sperm or egg. Because it appears that these de novo mutations have a very big effect, a very profound effect. If you have the mutation, you have a great risk of developing autism.
DR. MARTHA HERBERT: I think that what you have is, yes, definitely a question of toxics and toxics in our environment, that some of them act like our own molecules, like hormones, for example. That's called endocrine disruption. Some of them get confused with neurotransmitters. Some of them damage our cell membranes. Many, many of them damage our mitochondria, our energy factories in our cells.
DR. CRAIG NEWSCHAFFER: Something that I think is important in thinking about these complex causes is thinking about the window of vulnerability. When are these causes most likely to act? And again, I believe that that prenatal, intrauterine period is going be very, very important. So things from maternal diet, infections that mothers may be exposed to in pregnancy, exogenous chemicals, chemicals in the environment that could be neuro-developmentally significant. All these are things -- I think these things are likely to play a role. How large, how small, I think, is yet to be determined.