The New York Times Sunday Review had an article this week linking autism with the hygiene hypothesis. Written by Moises Velasquez-Manoff, the piece is part of the Times’ opinion coverage, not reported news. It was also one of those sort of stories that comes across as highly persuasive … until you start looking at the details. About halfway through reading it yesterday, it occurred to me that Velasquez-Manoff was making a lot of big statements—”perhaps 1/3 of autism, and very likely more, looks like a type of inflammatory disease”, for example—without citing the sources to back those statements up.
That’s easy to do when you’re writing a relatively short article summarizing the contents of a much bigger book, as Velasquez-Manoff seems to be doing here. But the problems go deeper than that, according to biologist and science writer Emily Willingham. In a must-read blog post, she goes through the NYT piece and points out many flaws in argument and detail. The main problem, though, is a pretty simple one: Moises Velasquez-Manoff presents what seems to be a largely speculative hypothesis as sure-fire truth. To make that case as persuasive as it is, he leaves out lots of evidence that doesn’t match up with his thesis.
- First, he appears to describe autism as a “parallel epidemic” with autoimmune diseases, even though a careful review of the literature shows that there likely isn’t an “epidemic” of autism. I’m also having trouble finding any data to confirm an epidemic of autoimmune diseases (he provides no sourcing), although I find that incidence rates in general seem to go up with improvements in diagnostic tools, a scenario that is common with application of new technologies in many diseases and disorders. Without that parallel or even confirmation of either “epidemic,” his carefully constructed, fragile “if that, then this” scenario suffers from that point on.
- …Velasquez-Manoff then asks, “What has happened to the modern immune system?” and goes on to assert that the concepts underlying the “hygiene hypothesis” also underlie autism and correlations between autism and maternal autoimmune disorders or asthma. An “evolutionary answer,” he says, is that we are no longer sufficiently riddled with parasites and microbes (we actually still have our microbes), so our immune system, twiddling its presumably heroic thumbs, casts its roving eye elsewhere–i.e., on ourselves. See, people who still live with parasites, he says, “don’t suffer from inflammatory diseases as much as we do” (italics mine). “We,” I assume, being the clean people of the western world. No sources given, and that assertion does not dovetail with, for example, what we know about asthma rates in Latin America (really high) versus Western Europe (not so high), although in places where things like leprosy, parasitic worm infections that include river blindness, and nasty bacterial eye infections are high, type 1 diabetes is low. Raise your hand if you’re willing to make that tradeoff. And then he says, “Autism also follows this pattern” and “seems to be less prevalent in the developing world.”
- … when you’re dealing with intestinal parasites and their friends, you and your government may not really have the time to go around carefully diagnosing developmental disorders. I suffered through his unsourced dismissal of epidemiologists who say as much, and I just about had a coronary when he cited “at least one (unnamed) Western doctor” (the best kind, you know) who had found autism was “nearly nonexistent” in a Cambodian population “rife with parasites and acute infections.” Um… if, as Velasquez-Manoff seems to argue, maternal infection sets the stage for maternal immune dysfunction and presumably autism, how is it that a population rife with acute infections evades autism? He doesn’t ever name the “Western doctor,” but autism does exist in Cambodia, and while we’re at it, here are a few other things Cambodian children must endure because they’ve got this great “evolutionary”-based existence that ‘protects’ them against autism.
Willingham’s basic point: There is an atmosphere of desperation and panic surrounding autism, which has lead some parents to try a range of risky interventions in the hopes of “curing” it.
I read this same Moises Velasquez-Manoff article from two days ago and it annoyed the heck out of me. What causes the “inflammation” he blames for autism is in part things in those vaccines that he says popular awareness has “fixated on”. Chronic autoimmune disorders result from a body being attacked without the needed defenses to fight back. It is true that we need good bacteria in our gut (the front line of our immune systems) to do the fighting, but the reason we don’t have them is not because we living in a “cleaner” society. We don’t have good bacteria in our guts because the factory farmed foods we eat contain so many drugs (antibiotics see http://www.forbes.com/sites/daniellegould/2012/07/11/whats-in-your-beef-a-lot-of-antibiotics-says-food-industry-survey/ ). We are killing the good bacteria. The real reason inflammation is “mysterious” is that our government is protecting industry profits over the health of individuals by ignoring and attacking scientists and studies that would impact those profits.
A remarkable 80 percent of antibiotics sold in the U.S. are used not by humans, but by the meat and poultry industries so factory farm animals can grow faster and survive crowded and unsanitary conditions. – meatwithoutdrugs.org
News flash: Antibotics are NOT destroyed by cooking meat:
Nitromidazole residues are not destroyed by cooking. This was tested with chicken meat. Some may get leached out in cooking juices and get “lost” that way if juices are discarded though…as mentioned in the abstract of this paper. Have not read the full paper ….just the abstract. …
“Stability of antibiotics in meat during a simulated high temperature destruction process”:
It further confirms that what you suspected is right. Not all are destroyed. In fact 80% of Lincomycin activity remains after various combined treatments: pasteurisation (80°C), sterilisation (134°C), and drying (100°C). Varying degrees of activity were found for various other antibiotics. The antibiotics looked at in this paper are the typical ones used in veterinary medicine.
Therefore, antibiotics that aren’t broken down by your stomach acid are killing the good bacteria in your gut.
In this way, we do have a lack of the right healthy germs compared to our ancestors. The germs are still here, but we kill them every day with drugs. It isn’t just antibiotics, but pesticides as well.
Around 85% of corn grown today, genetically modified by Monsanto, has been engineered to literally produce its own pesticides. … eating GMO corn products can cause your gut (which is primarily responsible for keeping you healthy) to turn into a breeding ground for tiny little pesticide factories inside your body, actively creating toxins which are designed to kill living things. – bbeliver
In government-sponsored research in Italy ii , mice fed Monsanto’s Bt corn showed a wide range of immune responses. Their elevated IgE and IgG antibodies, for example, are typically associated with allergies and infections. The mice had an increase in cytokines, which are associated with “allergic and inflammatory responses.” The specific cytokines (interleukins) that were elevated are also higher in humans who suffer from a wide range of disorders, from arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease, to MS and cancer – mercola
Our wretched children are autistic because we didn’t know we had to buy organic antibiotic-free meats. We thought we didn’t have the money to buy only organic produce. We didn’t know we had to avoid GMO corn products because they create toxin factories in our guts. We thought that was a bunch of environmental wacko nonsense. Now we will pay.