Vitamins, Omega-3 Supplements May Improve Autism Symptoms

Lisa Rapaport wrote . . . . . . . . .

Children with autism who take supplements of vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids may have fewer symptoms than kids who don’t, a research review suggests.

Researchers examined data from 27 trials involving a total of 1,028 children with autism spectrum disorder. Kids were randomly selected to take various dietary supplements, including vitamins or omega-3s, or to take a dummy pill instead.

Omega-3s and vitamin supplements were more effective than the placebo pill at improving several symptoms, functions, and clinical domains, researchers report in Pediatrics. Gains varied in the trials but included improved language and social skills, reduced repetitive behaviors, improved attention, less irritability and behavior difficulties, and better sleep and communication.

“These results suggest that some dietary interventions could play a role in the clinical management of some areas of dysfunction specific to ASD,” said Dr. David Fraguas, lead author of the study and a researcher at Hospital General Universitario Gregorio Maranon and Universidad Complutense de Madrid in Spain.

Even though the analysis was based on controlled experiments – the gold standard for testing the effectiveness of medical interventions – the individual studies were too varied in what supplements they tested and how they measured results to draw any broad conclusions about what type or amount of supplements might be ideal for children with autism, researchers note in Pediatrics.

“The underlying mechanisms involved in the potential efficacy of dietary interventions in autism spectrum disorder are unknown, Fraguas said by email. “Our study does not assess this important question and current literature is inconclusive.”

About 1 in 59 kids have autism spectrum disorder, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It’s much more often diagnosed in boys than in girls.

Early symptoms of autism can vary but may include repetitive behaviors like hand flapping or body rocking, extreme resistance to changes in routine, and sometimes aggression or self-injury. Behavioral, educational, speech and language therapy may help reduce the severity of symptoms in some children.

There are no medications that can cure autism or treat the main symptoms, but there are some drugs that can help children function better by improving symptoms like inattention, hyperactivity, depression, or seizures, according to the CDC.

While some therapists treating kids with autism advise parents to put children on special diets, rigorous scientific studies haven’t proven that there’s a good approach to recommend to all kids with autism, according to the CDC.

Complicating matters, children with autism may have a range of health issues related to food, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. (bit.ly/2Vzw1Bg) They may, for example, be sensitive to the taste, smell, color, or texture of certain foods and eat a very limited selection of items or have difficulty focusing on meals. They might also be prone to constipation, or have medication interactions that impact their appetite.

Kids with autism shouldn’t go on a special diet without first seeing a registered dietician nutritionist to ensure they’re getting enough nutrients and calories to thrive, AND advises.

Even though vitamin and omega-3 supplements appeared to help children with autism in the current study, Fraguas agreed it’s premature to advise parents to start giving kids these supplements.

“Currently, we cannot make a specific recommendation regarding dietary interventions as treatments for autism spectrum disorder,” Fraguas said.

Source: Reuters


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Largest Study Ever Finds No Link Between Measles Vaccine, Autism

Dennis Thompson wrote . . . . . . . . .

Amid ongoing U.S. measles outbreaks, one of the largest studies to date provides fresh evidence that the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine does not cause autism.

Danish researchers found no link between the MMR vaccine and autism, even when they focused on children at greater risk for developing autism.

“In a study of more than 650,000 Danish children, there was no difference in the risk of autism in vaccinated and unvaccinated children,” said lead researcher Anders Hviid. He is a senior investigator of epidemiology with the Statens Serum Institute in Copenhagen, Denmark.

But Hviid is skeptical the new findings will make much difference among anti-vaccine activists.

“I do not think we can convince the so-called anti-vaxxers,” Hviid said. “I am more concerned about the perhaps larger group of parents who encounter anti-vaccine pseudoscience and propaganda on the internet, and become concerned and uncertain.”

Six measles outbreaks have been reported across the United States in the first two months of 2019, infecting 159 people with the highly contagious virus, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The largest outbreak, taking place in the Portland, Oregon region, has sickened 68 people, the CDC said.

The discredited link between the MMR vaccine and autism dates back two decades to a study published in The Lancet that claimed a handful of children had been diagnosed with autism within four weeks of receiving the vaccination.

That study received wide publicity, but was subsequently retracted by the medical journal after discovery that the research was fraudulent.

Despite repeated studies demonstrating no link between the MMR vaccine and autism, anti-vaccine advocates continue to cite that concern as one basis for their opposition.

Hviid and his colleagues decided to take another large-scale stab at testing the alleged link. They tracked 657,461 children born in Denmark between 1999 and 2010, following them from 1 year old through August 2013.

During that period, just over 6,500 of the children were diagnosed with autism.

The researchers found no increased autism risk among kids who received the MMR vaccine, compared with those who did not.

In addition, the study found no increased risk for autism even in subgroups of kids who naturally are more likely to develop autism, the researchers said. These included children whose siblings have autism, or who scored high on an autism risk assessment.

This addressed one critique of previous studies of the MMR vaccine and autism. Critics had complained that earlier efforts had failed to focus on the effects of the vaccine on kids at increased risk of autism, according to an editorial accompanying the new study.

The new study was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Infectious diseases expert Dr. Amesh Adalja called the new study “a very powerful piece of evidence.” He was not involved with the new report.

“This study, which includes over a decade of data on more than half a million children, goes further than prior studies by looking in high-autism risk subgroups,” said Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, in Baltimore.

“That no increased autism risk was found — even in high-risk subgroups — is not surprising,” Adalja continued. “However, the anti-vaccine movement is not influenced by facts, by science or by logic, so I fear that another study demonstrating the safety of MMR vaccination will not sway those whose allegiance is not to reality, but to irrational arbitrary beliefs.”

Hviid noted that the World Health Organization has declared vaccine hesitancy one of the 10 greatest threats to public health.

“Hopefully, our study can play a small part in turning the anti-vaccine tide,” Hviid said.

Source: HealthDay

FDA Warns Against Bogus Autism ‘Cures’

Don’t fall for products claiming to cure autism, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warns.

There’s no cure for the neurodevelopmental disorder, the agency said. Yet bogus “cures” and therapies abound — from toxin removal to raw camel milk.

Some of these fraudulent treatments could be harmful, and should be avoided, the agency said Wednesday.

Among them: chelation therapies, hyperbaric oxygen therapy and detoxifying clay baths.

Autism spectrum disorder affects about 1 in 68 children in the United States, boys far more often than girls.

“Autism varies widely in severity and symptoms. Existing autism therapies and interventions are designed to address specific symptoms and can bring about improvement,” FDA pediatrician Dr. Amy Taylor said in an agency news release.

Children with an autism spectrum disorder have difficulties with social interaction and communication. They often exhibit repetitive behaviors and have narrow, obsessive interests, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

Some FDA-approved drugs can help control autism symptoms. For example, antipsychotics such as risperidone (Risperdal) and aripiprazole (Abilify) are prescribed to children to treat irritability associated with autism.

But, there has been a long history of failed autism treatments and fads. These include the following:

Chelation therapies claim to cleanse the body of toxic chemicals and heavy metals. They come in spray form, suppositories, capsules, liquid drops and clay baths.

FDA-approved chelating agents are available by prescription only. They’re approved for the treatment of lead poisoning and iron overload, but not the treatment or cure of autism. These products should only be used under professional supervision because they can deplete the body of important minerals and lead to serious and life-threatening problems, the FDA said.

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy, another unproven treatment for autism, involves breathing oxygen in a pressurized chamber. It has FDA approval only for certain medical uses, such as treating decompression sickness suffered by scuba divers.

Detoxifying clay baths are falsely marketed as providing “dramatic improvement” in autism symptoms, the FDA said. The products, mixed in bath water, are said to draw out chemical toxins, pollutants and heavy metals from the body.

Raw camel milk and essential oils are among other products sold as autism treatments. But, they have not been proven safe or effective, according to the FDA.

Jason Humbert, a regulatory operations officer in the FDA’s Office of Regulatory Affairs, said, “Be suspicious of products that claim to treat a wide range of diseases.”

Humbert cited several ways consumers can identify false or misleading claims about products that purport to cure or treat autism.

Understand that personal testimonials are no substitute for scientific evidence, he said.

Also, few diseases or conditions can be treated quickly, so be wary of any therapy claiming to be a “quick fix,” he added.

Similarly, “miracle cures” that boast of scientific breakthroughs or secret ingredients are likely a hoax, Humbert said.

Before using any little-known therapy or product that claims to treat or cure autism, check with your health care professional, the FDA said.

Source: HealthDay