Monthly Archives: February 2010

A link between Autism, Allergies and Birth Control?

I have been fairly critical of recent studies regarding rising Autism rates and today another explanation rankled me.  In haste to find a more credible reason now that vaccines were debunked, the medical community is looking toward toxins and chemicals in the environment, which sounded plausible until I read what the basis was:

According to a recent study published in Environmental Health Perspectives, “Researchers measured the levels of suspect chemicals called phthalates in the urine of pregnant women. Among women with higher levels of certain phthalates (those commonly found in fragrances, shampoos, cosmetics and nail polishes), their children years later were more likely to display disruptive behavior.”  I must have missed some major news where  ‘disruptive behavior’ became an accepted definition of Autism.  It is equally as likely that these women, still manicuring and coiffing themselves post-pregnancy, completely ignored their children!  and baring osmosis, I fail to see how phthalates wind up in one’s urine when used externally.
Being involved in special education I see some interesting trends.   Incidence of diagnosis runs in families but I often wonder if the evaluator would still render a diagnosis of autism if  conducted without knowledge of another family member’s diagnosis. Still, assuming  prevalence in families, are there traits common among those diagnosed, or their parents?   Is it possible that during pregnancy the mother/fetus is lacking certain nutrients?  This would account for multiple incidence in families since there is little evidence to assert  a genetic link.
Dr. Ellen Grant studied this correlation, British Medical Journal, Oct 14, 2004: “Mineral and vitamin and essential fatty acid deficiencies are real causes of impaired brain function, especially zinc and copper imbalance.    The damaging effect of dental amalgam fillings in early pregnancy is potentially a real cause of severe irreversible brain damage to children. This dental practise is now being discontinued hopefully.  The commonest toxic metal in autistic children causing DNA-adducts in a screening study of 61 autistic children was cadmium, presumably from parental smoking.”
In an earlier related study, reported in the same publication, August 29, 2004, Dr. Grant poses the following questions: ‘”What happened to cause such large increases in childhood illnesses? Similar increases seem to have occurred in dyslexia, hyperactivity and autism. Why has the sex ratio of childhood allergies changed from being twice as common in boys to equal prevalence in girls?”

Conclusion: “A single cohesive explanation may be the increasing use by younger women of hormonal contraceptives, and also smoking and alcohol before conception. Hormone use lowers zinc and magnesium levels and causes copper imbalances. It is important to correct these abnormalities before conception to prevent unexplained infertility or recurrent miscarriages, or health problems in future children.2,3 Low maternal zinc levels during early pregnancy can impair homeostatic mechanism and stress-coping mechanisms throughout future growth and development in animals. It is likely that the increases in allergic illnesses in children could be stemmed if hormonal contraception, smoking and alcohol use were avoided by young women before conception. Monitored nutritional supplementation for parents before conception, mothers during pregnancy and children when growing is very useful.”

Dr. Grant makes a compelling argument that increased usage of oral contraceptives is concurrent with increased allergy and autism incidence.   More troubling however, is that on this side of the Atlantic, there is an absence of studies on the affects of contraceptives on the fetus.    Perhaps it would put a damper on our sexual freedom to suggest that birth control usage can unleash harmful affects on your yet-to-be-conceived child even before you meet Mr. Maybe.  So, your mother was right; don’t smoke, don’t drink, [cussing is OK] and the best protection is abstinence.

A conspiracy among Manufacturers

I read label content regularly and wanted to share a most interesting statistic; it seems the majority of cereals have between 100-150 calories per serving.   What coincidence.  Yet, read further and you’ll note that a serving for some cereals is 6 ounces, and did I mention that was without milk?   Based on the current manufacturer’s recommended serving sizes, I may never need a bowl again; just a few tablespoons to set me on my day and think of all the water and detergent saved on running my dishwasher!  Likewise, a single [serving] Pop-Tart can’t possibly keep a student’s appetite at bay until lunch and I will only briefly mention  the annoying commercial with cartoon Moms in their size 2 clothes high-fiving their cartoon sons as if they had just made a great frosting-based food choice.   Hoping my readers can enlighten me:  Is “The Frosting Group” at the top of the Food Pyramid or the bottom?  So, while  it is a welcome change that the FDA recently announced it will prod manufacturers to place realistic serving sizes on their packages, and adjust the nutritional values accordingly, that does not excuse us from exercising common sense.

I have been doubling the daily values on all my packaged products for years, since that is what actually fills up my cereal bowl but still leaves room for the milk,  or 4 cookies instead of the serving size of 2 that the manufacturer cops to, along with a large glass of skim milk for dunking,   a realistic sized afternoon snack.   I have taught my children to do likewise, and they caught on early, however that doesn’t mean they always make healthy choices, they are just aware by how much they’ve exceeded the displayed number, which they, and we,  know is  “bogus”.    And that’s the point, reminding ourselves and teaching our kids, the truth in this numbers game, regardless of manufacturers’ illusion.

What’s in a label?

I am a skeptic by nature so this week’s reports in the WSJ and other media that  the rising Autism rates could be hype, was not unexpected.   Parents who have learning disabled children are eager, some even desperate,  for a diagnosis.   The current climate of budget cuts means educational services are scrutinized for every classified student, with one exception; a label of Autism bears immunity from the knife, or major losses of funding,    largely due to the publicized alarming rise of diagnosis.    Researchers from Columbia University and UCLA Davis  both noted in studies, that  autism diagnosis correlated with high education levels of parents versus those whose parents were less educated.   Translation: Children, whose parents were less skilled in advocating for their child,  did not secure an autistic diagnosis, and related services. Parents are frequently asked by educators if any practitioner, medical or otherwise, has ever suggested Autism. Often, it may be the only means to save the child’s support services.  This requires parents be complicit in what is tantamount to fraud, and if you were given the choice of keeping/obtaining your child’s  necessary support system, would you do differently?
Most health organizations are founded by someone with that health issue, or a loved one who suffers from that health issue.   Autism activist groups have been a tremendous source of awareness and guidance for individuals afflicted with Autism and their families.  However they have done significant damage in insisting that vaccines cause autism despite  the [only] medical report they cite as evidence, was significantly flawed, the details of which I only read this week.   While the controversy has been public for quite some time, I was unaware that the medical journal in which it was published, The Lancet, sought retraction almost immediately after it went to press, which they did in fact receive, partially, from 10 of the 13 authors involved in the study.   However, I was also not aware that the lead author, Andrew Wakefield, whose own son was diagnosed with Autism, ‘cherry picked’ all the subjects, even going as far as to draw blood from these children at his son’s birthday party.    Huh? How does such a ‘random representative sample of subjects’ get funded in the first place?  and what persuasion is used when the majority of authors kept quiet?  Once these unethical practices were known, Lancet retracted the entire study last week.     Clearly,  Dr. Wakefield had a conscious, or unconscious, predetermination in finding an outcome that would permit him to assign a reason or blame.   This made me wonder if all the 13 authors were parents of autistic children, or how many other tax payer funded studies are stacked with such biased or unethical participants.   Just as judges must recuse themselves from hearing cases they may have a predisposition, physicians must disclose any agenda or relationships that may cloud their objectivity and recuse themselves.  Without such regulation, I find it hard to believe the results of any study, far worse, however is that every Autistic diagnosis will be suspect.