WDDTY is consistently wrong about autism. From promoting chelation quackery to pretending that recent academic work vindicates Andrew Wakefield’s fraudulent attempts to pin autism on MMR, they are reliably incorrect.
This “special report” is no exception: it appears designed to further the commercial interests of WDDTY’s contributors and advertisers.
The Autism Research Unit (ARU), University of Sunderland, has concluded that autism is not a mental illness, but a metabolic one.
Who said autism was a mental illness? An immense body of recent work points to a genetic causation and objective differences in brain development. The idea that it is metabolic is seductive (that might allow a simple cure, and quacks have been all over that for years with the “autism biomed” nonsense) but there’s no proof that the link between autism and intestinal disorders is as they present it: it is every bit as likely that the stress exhibited by the autistic patient is the cause of the intestinal problem.
And the ARU has not been part of the University of Sunderland since 2009.
ESPA is not, as WDDTY present it, an academic research entity within the university, it is a separate group dedicated to promoting research into metabolic treatment of autism. This may or may not be valid, but in any group that exists to research a single hypothesis, there is an inherent danger of confirmation biasW and even pathological scienceW.
One red flag is the involvement of Malcolm Hooper, who has been involved in attacks on Professor Sir Simon WesselyW by a subset of the ME/CFS community (see here for a discussion of some of this group).
So, this may well be legitimate research and could even lead to some palliative treatments, but it has to be viewed in the wider context of research finding evidence of autism from birth (see for example reports at BBC, LA Times). You certainly can’t say that the researchers have ”concluded” this, since they seem to have started off from the premise that it was the case and looked for evidence to support it.
In their research of more than 1200 children with autism over 11 years, they have evidence that autism is caused by the action of peptides outside the brain and central nervous system. These peptides result in effects which either cause opioid activity or help to break down the opioid peptides that occur naturally within the CNS. Natural opioid peptides, which include the enkephalins and endorphins, play a central role in regulating the CNS, affecting all high cognitive functions, like perception and emotion. Through the action of these peptides, the neuroregulatory role may be altered or intensified to such an extent that most higher processes within the CNS are completely disrupted.This interference would affect perception, cognition, emotions, mood and behaviour, leading to all the diverse symptoms we characterise as autism.
That’s one view. Here’s another:
We have presented abnormal neural connectivity as an explanatory framework within which genetic and neuropathological findings on autism may be unified with neuroanatomy, neurophysiology, and behavior. Communication between these levels of analysis promises a greater understanding of mechanisms underlying both normal and pathological development of neural and cognitive systems and has the potential to render a multiplicity of experimental and theoretical approaches more coherent.
Normal brains, they found, are alike in that for about 500 genes, gene expression in the temporal lobes — which regulate hearing, language, and the processing and interpreting of sounds — is very different from gene expression in the frontal lobe, which plays a role in judgment, creativity, emotions, and speech.
But in as many as 75% of the autistic brains there was very little difference in gene expression between the temporal and frontal lobes.
In the autistic brains, genes related to synaptic function — information sharing between neuronal brain cells — were turned down to low levels of expression.
“This points to a developmental patterning defect,” Geschwind says. “That means the usual patterning of the brain — the way different parts of the brain hook up — might be altered in autism.”
So it looks as if, as usual, WDDTY are cherry-picking their results and representing single striking findings as if they are generally accepted and proven.
Once again we come back to the fact that increasingly autism is seen as likely to be a genetic disorder, with evidence found from birth (before gluten or casein are introduced to the diet) or even in utero.
But where do these extra peptides come from? The ARU believes the culprit is certain foods and the inability of the body to process these foods due to an inadequacy of the enzymes ordinarily responsible for breaking them down. The most frequent causes are gluten from wheat and other gluten containing cereals, like rye, barley and oats, and also milk and dairy products.
Nutribollocks motherlode! Gluten and dairy, two of the things the paleo fools finger for all that ails mankind. In practice, while there may be effects here, the primary difference is unlikely to be related to well-established disorders such as coeliac disease and much more likely to be a co-morbidity of some genetic malfunction.
Genetic factors or nutritional vitamin or mineral deficiencies may be behind the inadequate function of the enzymes involved.
Genetic factors might be, nutritional deficiencies not so much. The autism biomed community has conducted a lengthy albeit uncontrolled and unstructured experiment on this, supplementation does not cure autism.
These rogue peptides make it to the CNS largely due to a damaged gut. Normally, the proteins lining the gut wall are sulphated, forming a protective layer over the gut wall surface. But when the gut doesn’t produce enough sulphation, proteins in the gut wall tend to clump together, causing an uneven gut wall surface and increasing gut permeability. This, in turn, allows foods into the bloodstream (and eventually the CNS).
This sounds suspiciously like that other crank favourite, “leaky gut syndromeW”. Yet another condition that only cranks appear able to identify.
Most of the children examined by the ARU have this abnormality in the gut. These gross gut wall abnormalities appear to be the result of an insult to the body or a toxicity. The ARU has evidence that one of the most common insults is the MMR vaccine (see box, p 3). Gut abnormalities and the onset of autism have also followed a bout of encephalitis or meningitis. Other environmental toxicities, such as pesticides, also appear to be implicated in damaging the gut.
It has been noted elsewhere that one of the symptoms of autism is high levels of stress and nervous energy. This is known to prompt changes in intestinal behaviour. And look, they finger the MMR vaccine. You know, the one that has been extensively examined and found to have no association whatsoever with autism. For example, when Japan went to single vaccines, the autism diagnosis rate did not change at all. And signs of autism begin at birth, not with MMR vaccinations.