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Bread preservative makes rats appear autistic

BLOGautismColesloaf3 "fermented wheat flour"

  BLOGautismHelgaloaf3 "cultured wheat flour" 

While food manufacturers hide the bread preservative under innocent-sounding names, researchers suggest that these additives can make autistic symptoms worse – and we agree!

“I believed that they wouldn't put anything this harmful in our ‘daily bread’…”- Alison from story [036]


  • Autistic spectrum disorders seem to be increasing
  • Propionate-based preservatives can make rats appear autistic
  • Researchers think propionates could exacerbate autistic symptoms in children

Autistic spectrum disorders appear to be increasing. Some of the observed change is due to new diagnostic criteria for ASD but scientists think there is also a genuine increase.

1980s - autism prevalence was reported as 1 in 10,000
1990s - 1 in 2500 and later 1 in 1000
2018 - approximately 1 in 100 but as high as 1 in 38 (in South Korea)

What causes ASD?

Researchers do not know what causes ASD – so they need an animal model to test their theories.  

In a recent study from South Korea, researchers used rats treated with propionic acid – a common bread preservative.  Young rats were given under-skin injections of 500 mg/kg propionic acid every day for five days.

Researchers concluded that the propionic acid “induced abnormal neural cell organization, which may have led to autism-like neurobehaviors, including increased aggressive behavior, reduced exploratory activity, and isolative and passive behaviours. “ https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5814017/

… So why are we giving this bread preservative to young children?

The Korean researchers wrote: 

“Since some foods such as wheat and dairy products contain propionic acid as a preservative, such food intake may exacerbate the symptoms of ASD …” - Choi et al, 2018

While Canadian researchers earlier wrote : “...exposure to propionic acid has been demonstrated in several animal models to result in the development of ASD-like behaviors, and physiological changes to the brain similar to those found in ASD are seen in adult rats acutely exposed to propionic acid and in juvenile rats systematically exposed to propionic acid pre- and postnatally”...

“this study …  may lead to further reevaluation of the widespread use of propionic acid in agriculture and the food industry…” - Frye et al, 2017

See changes in behaviour of laboratory rats given the common bread preservative propionic acid (Autism Enigma; 3:00)


What failsafers say about propionate preservatives

I agree with the Korean researchers. In my study (Controlled trial of cumulative behavioural effects of a common bread preservative, 2002), we found that bread preservative 282 could cause a variety of behavioural effects, from irritability and restlessness to inattention, sleep disturbance and many more.

Failsafers have reported a wide range of effects including autistic symptoms from this preservative:

My 4 yo son’s behaviour and manner were almost autistic … his speech was very delayed … I took him off wheat (a later challenge found he was fine on wheat, it was the bread preservative that caused the problem). The change was astonishing …. When I picked him up from preschool the teacher said "What have you done? - he's a different child - he's playing with the others and listening to us …  and the speech therapist said she had never seen a child change so dramatically within such a short period of time." – from story [036]

By 27 months my son had 2 words …  At 30 months I took him off commercial bread and at 34 months, he just started talking one day … at 36 months: He was going to be assessed for autistic disorders in a few weeks, but since taking him off 282 he has changed (he talks now! and his behaviour is so much better) and I know that his paediatrician will be amazed at his progress. – from story [357]

See more stories in our 282 propionates bread preservative story collection

What failsafers say about diet for ASD

Through this diet, my ASD child appears more and more balanced. Our highly qualified psychologist took one look at my child in the waiting room at her last appointment (a month into the diet) and said “This is a completely different child. What on earth have you been doing to achieve this?” (The achievement being a calm, responsive and fearless child.)… now the OCD, ODD and anger has lessened with the diet, I’m actually proud she’s autistic as she’s super funny, quirky and clever … - from story [1413]

I worked with a little boy (5) who has autism and when on a FS diet he was back to all normal development until he had something not on the diet...and then he would literally be in the corner of the room banging his head on a wall and no speech at all – Tallara from story [1231]

We went Full elimination for my HF Autistic 12 year old son 12 months ago and had amazing results. Teachers could not believe the difference. I only wish we had known about Failsafe when he was younger – Michelle from story [1231]

See more stories in our autism, autistic, ASD, spectrum, Aspergers story collection

Propionate-based preservatives can be listed as

propionic acid (280)
sodium propionate (281)
calcium propionate (282)
potassium propionate (283)

OR cultured anything while claiming “no artificial preservatives”, eg

cultured dextrose
cultured wheat flour
cultured rice

OR fermented anything while claiming “no artificial preservatives”, eg

fermented wheat flour (including Coles bread)
fermented wheat

More information

Is ASD increasing? US Centers for Disease Control’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/67/ss/ss6706a1.htm?s_cid=ss6706a1_w

Korean study on the prevalence of autism Kim YS and others, Prevalence of autism spectrum disorders in a total population sample. Am J Psychiatry. 2011;168(9):904-12. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21558103

Korean study on autistic rat model Choi J and others Pathophysiological and neurobehavioral characteristics of a propionic acid-mediated autism-like rat model. PLoS One. 2018 Feb 15;13(2):e0192925. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0192925. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5814017/

Canadian study on the effect of propionic acid on adult and juvenile rats. Frye RE and others, Modulation of Immunological Pathways in Autistic and Neurotypical Lymphoblastoid Cell Lines by the Enteric Microbiome Metabolite Propionic Acid. Front Immunol. 2017 Dec 22;8:1670. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2017.01670. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5744079/

Australian study on the effect of the bread preservative on children’s behaviour. Dengate S1, Ruben A. Controlled trial of cumulative behavioural effects of a common bread preservative. J Paediatr Child Health. 2002;38(4):373-6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12173999   Download this paper (6Mb pdf)

Introduction to food intolerance

Bread preservative factsheet

Autism factsheet

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Food intolerance

Some of the many symptoms of food intolerance that can be helped by diet:

Airways: Asthma, Stuffy blocked or runny nose/ nasal polyps, Frequent nose bleeds, Catarrh, chronic throat-clearing, Sinusitis, Frequent ear infections, Frequent tonsillitis, Frequent colds and flu, symptoms of Samter's Triad, hayfever, allergic rhinitis Skin: Eczema, Urticaria (hives), Cradlecap, Other skin rashes, Angioedema (swollen lips, eyes, tongue), Geographic tongue, Pruritis (itching), Rosaceae, Allergic shiners (dark circles under eyes), Pallor (pale skin), Flushing, Excessive sweating, Body odour, Sore vagina in children, Alopecia (patchy baldness) Digestive system: Irritable bowel symptoms (IBS), Dysphagia (difficulty swallowing), Recurrent mouth ulcers, Indigestion, Nausea, Bad breath, Vomiting, Diarrhea, Stomach ache, Bloating, Reflux in babies, adults, Constipation, Colic in babies, adults, Sluggish bowel syndrome (feeling of "more to come"), Encopresis, Soiling (sneaky poos), Dairy intolerance, Gluten and wheat intolerance, Eating disorders (ed), anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder (BED)  Bladder: Bedwetting, Daytime incontinence, Urinary urgency, Recurrent inflammation (cystitis) Skeletal: Growing pains, Gout, Arthritis, joint pain, arthralgia Eyes: Nystagmus (involuntary movement), Blurred vision Muscles: Low muscle tone, Myalgia (muscle pain), Tics (involuntary movement), Tremor, Leg 'jiggling', Heart: Rapid heart beat, Heart palpitations, Cardiac arrhythmias, Pseudo heart attack (feeling of impending doom, chest pressure, pain down arm), Tachycardia (fast heart beat), Angina-type pain, HHT Central nervous system: Headaches or migraines, unexplained tiredness, Chronic fatigue, Feeling 'hung-over', Confusion, Dizziness, Agitation, Tinnitus (noises in ear), HyperacusisAuditory sensory processing disorder (ASPD), Paraesthesia (pins and needles), Dysaesthesia (numbness), Hypoglycemia, Salicylate-induced hypoglycemia, Epileptic seizures, Fits, Sensory symptoms of multiple sclerosis, Scents and perfume sensitivity, Symptoms of lupus Anxiety: Panic attacks, Depression, Obsessive ruminations (repetitively focusing on bad feelings and experiences from the past), Self harm, Suicidal thoughts, actions, teeth grinding (bruxism) Impaired memory: Vague or forgetful, Unable to concentrate, Won't persevere, Unmotivated, Disorganised, Easily distracted, Difficulty reading and writing Speech: Loud voice (no volume control), Speech hard to understand, Speech delay, Selective mutism, Stuttering, Repetitive noises, Talks too much (empty chatter) Coordination: Poor handwriting, Poor coordination, Frequent accidents, Vertigo Sleep: Difficulty falling asleep, Restless legs syndrome (RLS), Persistent night waking, Insomnia, Nightmares/night terrors/sleepwalking, Sleepless babies, Sleep apnoea Mood: Brain snaps, Mood swings, Premenstrual tension, Grizzly or unhappy, Cries easily or often, Irritable, Uncooperative Oppositional defiance: ODD, Loses temper, Argumentative, Refuses requests, Defies rules, Deliberately annoys others, Blames others for own mistakes, Touchy, easily annoyed, Angry, resentful Other behaviour: ADHD, ADD, Autism, Aspergers, Inattentive, easily bored, unmotivated, 'Unable to entertain himself', Restless, fidgety or overactive, Head banging, Hyperactivity, Fights with siblings, Difficulty making friends, Destructive, aggressive, Unreasonable, Tantrums, Demanding, never satisfied, Disruptive, Discipline is ineffective, Pervasive Development Disorder

Some causes of food intolerance:

Food additives: Artificial colours: (food dyes, artificial colors) tartrazine 102 (E102, FD&C Yellow No.5), quinoline yellow 104 (E104), sunset yellow 110 (E110, FD&C Yellow No.6), azorubine, carmoisine 122 (E122), amaranth 123 (E123), ponceau, brilliant scarlet 124 (E124), erythrosine 127 (E127, FD&C Red No.3), allura red 129 (E129, FD&C Red No.40), indigotine, indigo carmine 132 (E132, FD&C Blue No.2), brilliant blue 133 (E133, FD&C Blue No.1), green S, food green, acid brilliant green 142 (E142), fast green FCF 143 (E143, FD&C Green No.3), brilliant black 151 (E151), brown, chocolate brown 155 (E155)  Natural colours: (colors) Annatto (annatto extracts, bixin, norbixin, 160b, E160b) Preservatives: Sorbates: (sorbic acid 200, E200, sodium sorbate 201, E201, potassium sorbate 202, E202, calcium sorbate 203, E203) Benzoates, hydroxybenzoates, parabens: (including benzoic acid 210, E210, sodium benzoate 211, E211, potassium benzoate 212, E212, calcium benzoate 213, E213, ethyl para-hydroxybenzoate 214, E214, sodium ethyl para-hydroxybenzoate 215, E215, propylparaben 216, E216, propyl 4 hydroxybenzoate 217, E217, methylparaben 218, E218) Sulfites, bisulfites, metabisulfites: (200-228, sulphites, sulphur dioxide, sulfur dioxide 220, E220, sodium sulphite 221, E221, sodium bisulphite 222, E222, sodium metabisulphite 223, E223, potassium metabisulphite 224, E224, potassium sulphite 225, E225, calcium sulphite 226, E226, calcium bisulfite 227, E227, potassium bisulphite 228, E228) Nitrates & nitrites: (249-252, potassium nitrite 249, E249, sodium nitrite 250, E250, sodium nitrate 251, E251, potassium nitrate 252, E252 Propionates: (bread preservative, mould inhibitor 280-283: propionic acid 280, E280, sodium propionate 281, E281, calcium propionate 282, E282, potassium propionate 283, E283, 'natural' preservatives in bread, cultured or fermented wheat, dextrose, sugar, flour, whey or anything) Synthetic antioxidants: Gallates 310, 311, 312 (E310, E311, E312), tBHQ 319, E319, BHA 320, E320, BHT 321, E321 Flavour enhancers: (flavor enhancers) glutamic acid and all glutamates, MSG monosodium glutamate 620-625, yeast extract, hydrolysed vegetable protein HVP, disodium guanylate 627 (E627, DSG, GMP), disodium inosinate 631 (E631, DSI, IMP), ribonucleotides 635 (E635, I&G, nucleotides)  Flavours: (flavors)  Natural food chemicals: Salicylates: salicylic acid, sodium salicylate, acetylsalicylic acid Biogenic amines: vasoactive amines (tyramine, phenylethylamine, histamine and others) Glutamates:  Natural foods: Dairy: milk, yoghurt, cheese, butter, lactose-free milks Wheat or Gluten: (wheat, rye, barley, oats) Soy: Sugar free sweeteners:Sugar free sweeteners: polyols, sorbitol, mannitol

On this website, failsafe refers to foods that are Free of Additives and Low in Salicylates, Amines and Flavour Enhancers. Note that copyright applies to the commercial use of the term "failsafe" in the food and health context so as to control inappropriate use by the food and health industries.