A study published in Nature revealed that improving the gut microbiota could be a potential target in addressing Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). While it is known that the gut microbiota impacts health in many ways, it seems that modulating gut bacteria may also help to mitigate autism symptoms.
In this study, the researchers re-evaluated a small group of 18 ASD children who had severe digestive issues. Two years prior, these children underwent Microbiota Transfer Therapy (MTT), which consisted of antibiotics, cleansing the bowels, suppressing stomach acid and a fecal microbiota transplant. At the time of the MTT, the results showed significant increases in bacterial diversity along with marked improvements in both gastrointestinal (GI) and ASD symptoms for participants. This follow-up study subsequently found that two years after the MTT, bacterial diversity persisted and both GI and ASD symptoms remained “improved” compared to baseline according to the same GI and behavioral tests that were utilized previously.
Currently, one in 59 children in America have ASD. A great majority of individuals with neurobehavioral disorders, such as ASD, also experience chronic gastrointestinal symptoms. Established research supports the notion that ASD children have distinct gut microbiomes compared to neurotypical children.
This novel study highlights a non-human microbial cell perspective of neurobehavioral health, one that could help to treat conditions like ASD. The need for microbiota therapy is exigent as the study points out that currently “no medical treatment has been approved to treat core symptoms of ASD, such as social communication difficulties and repetitive behaviors”.
Sleeping more on the weekend to recover from sleep lost during a busy workweek is very common. Yet, recent study findings suggest that sleeping more on the weekend is not an effective strategy, and still leads to metabolic dysregulation and a higher risk of metabolic problems such as obesity and diabetes.
The study examined the connection between habitual weekend “recovery sleeping” and circadian timing, energy intake, weight gain and insulin sensitivity. Healthy, young adults were used as study participants and were assigned to one of three groups. The first group was the control group and had 9-hour sleep opportunities. The second had sleep restriction without weekend recovery sleep and 5-hour sleep opportunities. The third group was allowed to sleep for 5 hours during a 5-day workweek, as well as 2 days of weekend recovery sleep, followed by 2 nights of insufficient sleep.
The results showed that insufficient sleep increased after-dinner energy intake, as well as body weight. During weekend recovery, the participants slept for 1.1 hours more than the baseline group, and after-dinner energy intake decreased once again. However, when the participants experienced insufficient sleep after the weekend, the after-dinner intake and body weight increased again. The group that had only insufficient sleep had decreased insulin sensitivity compared with baseline, and the drop was approximately 13%. Yet the insulin resistance of those who were allowed to recover at the weekend equally dropped by between 9 and 27%. Without management, insulin sensitivity can lead to further metabolic issues.
This study suggests that sleeping more on the weekends to recover from a recurrent lack of sleep during the week is not as health-promoting as getting sustained good-quality sleep throughout the week.