November 30, 2012
Controversial Treatment For Autism Spectrum Disorder Proven Ineffective And Harmful
Lawrence LeBlond for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
A new study conducted by researchers at Baylor University found that a controversial autism treatment is ineffective and harmful. Called chelation, this treatment attempts to eliminate metals from the body in attempt to lessen the grasp of autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
Study coauthor Tonya N. Davis, PhD, assistant professor of educational psychology in Baylor´s School of Education, said: “The chemical substances used in chelation treatment have a myriad of potentially serious side effects such as fever, vomiting, hypertension, hypotension, cardiac arrhythmias and hypocalcemia, which can cause cardiac arrest.”
The research points to a 2008 clinical study that was suspended due to potential safety risks with chelation treatment and a death of a 5-year-old with ASD after receiving intravenous chelation.
“Chelation therapy represents the 'cart before the horse' scenario where the hypothesis supporting the use of chelation was not validated prior to using it as a form of treatment,” said Davis. “Evidence does not support the hypothesis that ASD symptoms are associated with specific levels of metals in the body.”
Davis, who is also supervisor of the Applied Behavior Analysis Program at the Baylor Autism Resource Center, said her and her team´s research included the review of five previously published studies on chelation. In one of the studies, 82 participants between the ages of 3 and 14 received chelation treatment over the course of one to seven months.
Of the five studies analyzed, four showed mixed results. There were some positive and some negative outcomes seen in all the study, except for one, which showed all positive outcomes. But after closer review, Davis and colleagues discovered “methodological weaknesses” in all five studies.
She noted that several of these studies “used numerous treatments at once in addition to chelation that made it impossible to determine if the positive results could be attributed to chelation alone.” And through deeper investigation, Davis found that the studies did not support the use of chelation as some have claimed and were “insufficient."
She noted that using chelation to remove metals from the body to treat ASD is an “unfounded and illogical” move.
Despite the risks and lack of evidence supporting chelation use, an Internet survey showed that close to 8 percent of parents said they have tried chelation treatment for their children.
But often, it´s not validation of a treatment, or lack thereof, that influences which treatments parents elect to use, Davis explained. “Most parents believe in 'leaving no stone unturned' when trying to treat their children with ASD and are willing to try anything they believe might help their child.”
Davis said she hopes the findings will help parents make better decisions about which treatments they should focus on for the safety of their children. “My hope is that this research will help parents make informed choices when selecting treatments for their child with ASD.”
The study, published in the journal Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, included several contributing authors from Baylor, the University of Texas at Austin, Texas State University-San Marcos, Texas A&M University, Victoria University of Wellington, University of Bari in Italy and Virginia Commonwealth University.