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Finally! Real Research On Curing Autism!

by Eric Hall

January 28, 2015

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Donate OK, not really. For those of us in the skeptic community, we understand Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) are a complex set of brain-based disorders that share some common traits but can vary greatly in severity. In many cases, autism isn't necessarily something that needs a cure, but instead just requires training for both the autistic person and the people interacting with the autistic person. These traits often convey benefits in their different way of thinking. Famous examples of the immense benefit of seeing the world differently, and consequently leading to major scientific contributions, include Temple Grandin and Albert Einstein. [Note: Yes, I know Einstein wasn't diagnosed, and it is just a hypothesis. I'm not arguing the details of that here.]

I also know many of us in the skeptic community are tired of having to repeat ourselves about the state of science regarding autism and vaccines, diets, contrails, detox, and just about every other nonsense "cure" that comes along every other week. So forgive me for needing to let off a little steam as I tackle yet another couple pieces of nonsense floating around social media.

I needed to write this because I'm pissed off. In fact, I need to write about my anger at some of these people peddling nonsense more often. So if my upcoming blogs take a tone you don't like—I apologize!

The first piece is by Billy DeMoss. (Warning: woo ahead!) DeMoss not only believes vaccines cause autism (they don't), but equates it with the attacks on 9/11, as both appear to him to be an inside job by the government. While nearly everything in his post is either conspiracy nonsense or a childish insult, I can't help but feel a little anger towards these type of people. They play on a person's guilt. They basically accuse parents of poisoning their kids by taking the advice of the medical community and science. It is sick, twisted, and wrong. And people who do this kind of thing need to be called out on not just their nonsense, but on their behavior as well.

The one that really set me off is one by Mindy Wender, fitness coach. I have many of my friends that are into the various nutrition shake fads currently available out there. While there is nothing wrong with including the shakes as part of a nutrition plan (other than being way overpriced), when the claims become excessive, I have a huge problem with it. Wender sells Shakeology as part of her fitness plans. However, she uses much more than weight loss to sell her product.

(Warning: woo!) Here is her claim, posted here in its entirety as she did say it was free to share and it keeps you from having to go look at her nonsense:
Lilly has given me a different appreciation for this little glass of goodness and I'll explain why....

Some of you know this but those who do not...Almost 2 years ago my princess was diagnosed with Autism. I was devastated and angry and sad and LOST. That lasted a few days until I finally turned to my faith and God started sending me information that gave me HOPE!!

I realize that there are ways to heal and even completely recovered her from autism and I decided right then and there that I would do whatever it took. God started giving me signs left & right and was bringing the right people and info to my life.

NUTRITION was the #1 thing in all my research that was a part of every single recovery story. I researched day in and day out and even went to the biggest autism conference of the year. At the conference there was a 3 hour seminar on healing kids via nutrition and I took PAGES of notes. My sister & I drove to whole foods right after to go shopping for all of these superfoods and dropped hundreds and hundreds of dollars on all of these supplements and powders.

I was so excited to get home to start applying everything I had learned and I made the first superfood shake and she WOULDN'T touch it. Ugh!! So frustrating. Then I happened to see my bag of vegan shakeology on the counter and started reading the back of all the ingredients. I WAS SHOCKED! I went and got my notes and every single thing that I had written down from that 3 hour seminar was IN SHAKEOLOGY!!!

I made her a shakeology and she downed it within a few seconds lol. I was beyond pumped about this and it brought tears to my eyes. Again another sign God brought beachbody to my life years ago knowing it would be a tool for us not only to live out my purpose but also to assist us in healing our baby.

GRATEFUL for this amazing product and there is not one person on the planet that could ever tell me this isn't the BEST health food shake on the market. You just can't!! I know personally through extensive research how every single ingredient is helping you from the inside out! Could even be healing your body and preventing long term illness.

THIS is why I shakeology and grateful for the creators of it! [sic]

Giving people false hope of some kind of cure is wrong. For those who deal with the most severe forms of autism, it is simply cruel to promise something which will just empty their wallet without results. For those who fall elsewhere on the spectrum, automatically categorizing things like social awkwardness and reduced coordination as being something which needs to be cured is insulting to them. Not everyone has equal talents, and autistic people often excel in areas such as math, art, or music.

Let me make sure to add the scientific caveat in here. It is possible better nutrition could benefit autistic people. People with ASD suffer from gastrointestinal issues at a higher rate than the general population. Anyone with GI issues often see improvement when they get to a more ideal weight, increase fluid intake, and eat a balanced diet. Certainly these nutritional shakes can provide help in achieving that goal, but they are not required to do so, and it is an expensive way to go.

I also should note: the idea that a three-hour seminar or spending several hours on the Internet somehow equates to "extensive research" is an insult to every research scientist.

The claim is "...every single ingredient is helping you from the inside out!" One of the ingredients in the standard shake flavors is fructose. FRUCTOSE! As in the fructose in HFCS! I heard that fructose feeds cancer! Sugar gives kids ADHD and autism! Yes, I am being facetious here. Fructose is fine. I just can't believe people who think this will cure them of everything are OK with fructose in this case. Well, they label it non-GMO, so that must make it OK.

It also contains Stevia. I guess sweetening your drink makes it super?

The vegan version she touts contains apple pectin. Here's a couple of problems with pectin:

When taken by mouth in combination with guar gum and insoluble fiber (the combination used to lower cholesterol and other blood fats), pectin can cause diarrhea, gas, and loose stools.

People who are exposed to pectin dust at work, such as in manufacturing, may develop asthma.

It contains Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM). MSM is known to cross the blood/brain barrier and is used as an industrial solvent. How could they feed a solvent to the kids?

Yes, I am again being hyperbolic about the pectin, stevia, and MSM. In the amounts in the shake, it is pretty unlikely they will cause any harm. But I am amazed how they can vilify ingredients in anything except for what's in their own product. And let's make that clear—they are selling a product. And doing so with false hope. It's sickening.

In her post, I commented that I thought making those claims was wrong, and it was insulting to people who have ASD. I didn't poke fun at the product. I didn't insult her personally. I simply said I think making the claim it cures children of ASD is wrong in the two ways I explained above. My comments were deleted and I was banned from future comments. This was her reply to my comment which is still there in a nested comment:

Haters gunna hate. this comes from someone who doesn't have an autistic child and has done NO research regarding this topic.

First, I expressed no hate in my comment. I was and I am angry about giving false hope and claiming everyone with ASD needs a cure and can buy it in the form of a pre-packaged shake. She also assumes I don't have an autistic child (hint: I do). And I have read plenty on the topic, since I do have an autistic child. I have two other children that could have either been autistic, or at least need to know about their brother so they understand why he sometimes needs time to himself. I do not do original research on autism, but I would say I am fairly knowledgeable on the topic. I also know science continues to build on that knowledge and the story is far from complete. I found what she said rather insulting.

I just want to poke fun at her a little more, since she found it OK to poke fun at me. A couple days before her post above, she wrote this little gem:

So right now Im kinda sorta laid up in bed because Im having some weird stomach pain BUT instead of being upset over this I've got every creative bone in my body activated LOL. [sic]

I am surprised her product didn't cure her in advance from the inside out. Isn't it supposed to do that? Every single ingredient?

The shakes also do carry the allergy warning that they are manufactured in a plant that processes nuts, soy, milk, etc. So one does need to be cautious if that's an issue for you. But if you are not allergic to any of the ingredients, and you get the OK from your doctor to start a diet, these can be a fine nutritional supplement, even if grossly overpriced. There isn't a large concern of harm, other than to your wallet. When the claims are not just misleading, but also insulting, it crosses a line. I wouldn't buy a product being sold by people willing to make such bogus claims. And neither should you.

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by Eric Hall

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