Seizure disorders occur in 1-2% of the population as opposed to 35% - 80% of the autistic population. There is no gender bias and can occur before age 5 and in adolescence. Long term studies have shown that up to 38% of adults diagnosed with autism as children will have seizures. This can result in lower intelligence, more maladaptive behaviors and a higher rate of psychotropic medications. (Frye).
Epilepsy in autism spectrum disorders can be caused by brain malformations which is why MRI studies are important, metabolic disorders affecting mitochondrial function, folate metabolism, and other enzyme deficiencies, and genetic disorders such as Fragile X, Rett Syndrome and Tuberous Sclerosis. Excess glutamate production, over activity of NMDA receptor, glutamate receptor activity can affect the excitatory/inhibitory balance in the brain. Glutamate activity peaks during the second year of life which is when most regression occurs. As a result of excitotoxicity, excess peroxinitrite is produced which also damages the mitochondrial complexes.
Ketogenic diet, developed for treatment of pediatric epilepsy in 1920s, allows the body to burn fats rather than carbohydrates. The liver converts the fats into fatty acids and ketones which pass into the brain and replace glucose as an energy source. The state of ‘ketosis’ reduces the frequency of seizures. Medium and short chain triglycerides (MCT’s) are more ketogenic than those made from long chain fats.