And on that note, summarized below are three mainstream studies of alternative biomedical interventions. To my knowledge, these studies were just announced, and have yet to be conducted.
The "autism diet" (gluten free/casein free) [via AutismVox]:
For the double-blind study, funded in its initial phase by supplemental funds granted by the Department of Pediatrics, researchers will enroll 38 autistic children ages 3 to 9. They will look at the influence of gluten and milk proteins in the intestinal function. Gluten is a protein in wheat; casein and whey are proteins in milk. Casomorphin, a peptide in milk; and gliadomorphin, a peptide in gluten, are thought to be related to changes in behavior in these children. Children will be taken off gluten and dairy products before the four-week study and then half will be given gluten/milk powder and half will be given a placebo powder.
Researchers will study intestinal permeability (leaky gut) through urine collection and behavior through psychometric testing.
Fish oil (supplement) [via AutismSpeaks]:
Fatty acids are essential for the development and function of the brain. Evidence suggests that deficiencies in fatty acids may be related to a range of neurodevelopmental disabilities, including autism. Omega-3 fatty acid supplements have been widely marketed as a “treatment” for autism, but have not undergone controlled studies to rigorously evaluate their usefulness in treating the symptoms of autism.
This study will carry out a double blind placebo controlled trial to determine the efficacy of omega-3 fatty acid supplementation in treating symptoms of autism. Participants in the trial will be children diagnosed with autism, randomly assigned to treatment and placebo groups. The treatment will involve 12 weeks of daily omega-3 fatty acid supplementation. Behavioral outcomes will be assessed by parents, teachers, and blinded clinicians to examine changes in mood and behavior following supplementation.
This research will help support or disprove the usefulness of omega-3 fatty acids in the treatment of autism, and allow us to better understand the mechanisms by which fatty acids may exert their effects.
B-12 (injection) [via AutismSpeaks]:
Double-blind placebo controlled trial of subcutaneous methyl B12 on behavioral and metabolic measures in children with autism
Studies have shown that many children with autism exhibit signs of oxidative stress, which causes cellular damage by the presence of highly reactive free radicals. Antioxidants may protect against the damaging effects of oxidative stress, and low antioxidant levels have been observed in children with autism. Nutritional supplementation by injections of the antioxidant methyl B12 is a current alternative medicine treatment for children with autism which has anecdotal reports of clinical improvements. However, the efficacy of methyl B12 to treat symptoms of autism and reduce oxidative stress has not been tested in controlled clinical trials.
This study will carry out an 8 week, double blind, placebo controlled clinical trial in 50 autistic children aged 3 to 8 years. Researchers will evaluate the subjects' behavioral responses to methyl B12 treatment. Additionally, they will monitor the blood levels of antioxidant metabolites, to determine whether methyl B12 treatment can reverse the signs of oxidative stress observed in autism.
This study will help determine whether methyl B12 is an effective treatment for core features of autism, and may identify novel diagnostic markers for treatment responses in autistic subjects.
I'm skeptical of each of the treatments listed above. Nevertheless, like a good autism mama, I'll keep my ear to the ground. The more information, the better. What to do with that information is a whole different story.