New study shows low cholesterol levels could have negative effect on autism

There's a promising new study that shows why low cholesterol levels could be making autism symptoms worse.

Rose Barker is a preschooler who has autism.

Her mom Angela says, "This is a child that would have a blank stare and run from other people if she didn't know them. I would have to literally carry her up the stairs with me if I just went from one level to another."

Today Rose is reading, smiling, and interacting like never before. And a packet of cholesterol could have helped make the difference.

As part of a clinical trial, the Barkers added a packet of cholesterol to Rose's diet twice a day and that simple act may have had a profound effect.

Dr. Eugene Arnold with Ohio State University Medical Center says, "It's possible that too low cholesterol could be one of several causes of autism, affecting a sub-group of children with autism."

Dr. Arnold launched an initial study with a simple premise. Knowing that proper levels of cholesterol are essential for brain development and function, he wanted to see if increasing cholesterol could reduce symptoms in autism.

And in Rose's case, at least, the results were clear. Angela says, "Personally, for us, the cholesterol has changed our life. It was exactly what she needed. Her development started almost immediately. She smiles again, she runs, she has awesome motor skills."

Now, Dr. Arnold and his team are expanding their study. But even as they add patients to their trial, they do so with a word of caution.

Dr. Arnold says, "It's very important that we not just rush out and try to give everybody with autism cholesterol, because for some of them it may be harmful."

But for some, like Rose, it could be a simple answer to a complex condition.

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