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05/05/2011 / Pedanto

Hungry for a cure for autism

Sitting alone in my room scrolling up and down the newsfeed on facebook one evening I discovered this friendly gentleman wanting to help with all my problems

The stethoscope means that he is duty bound to do what's best for you - and not just give you crap advice

This lovely chap is Dr. Ray Sahelian M.D. and if you want to visit his website to find out how he could help you please visit There you will find that your new friend is willing to help you overcome all types of problems with natural cures and treatments. Furthermore he will sift through all that complicated scientific literature for you. Aren’t you just so lucky? Some of those words can be difficult to understand, and with more important things to worry about why would you try?

Okay so I’m not the worlds biggest fan of complementary therapy. I like evidence, and I’m perfectly willing to embrace something new when given some evidence to play with. Just to qualify when I use the word evidence I mean good evidence. There was some controversy over not qualifying that you want reliable and useful evidence in the case between Simon Singh and the British Chiropractic Association. Simon Singh was prosecuted for libel by the British Chiropractic Association, and during the proceedings the prosecution stated that if he had qualified his use of the word evidence (with good, or useful) in his original article then the case would never have been valid. So just to cover my back (not that I have anywhere near the readership to get persecuted for libel) all further uses of the word evidence should be taken to mean “good/reliable/unbiased evidence”. Also on that note visit

So here is a chap who is happy to go through all the evidence for you and seemingly will report it back to you. Isn’t he a skeptics dream? Well perhaps not. Now lets play the worlds most boring game of spot the difference:


Diet and autism
Research indicates that a gluten and casein-free diet may be helpful in some children with autism. Therefore, it would be a good idea to try a gluten free diet for a period of a few weeks to see if there is any response. Since fish oils have benefited some autistic children, it may be a good idea to include more cold water fish in the diet.

Gluten- and casein-free diets for autistic spectrum disorder.
Millward C, Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2004.
It has been suggested that peptides from gluten and casein may have a role in the origins of autism and that the physiology and psychology of autism might be explained by excessive opioid activity linked to these peptides. Research has reported abnormal levels of peptides in the urine and cerebrospinal fluid of persons with autism. If this is the case, diets free of gluten and /or casein should reduce the symptoms associated with autism. The one trial included reported results on four outcomes. Unsurprisingly in such a small-scale study, the results for three of these outcomes (cognitive skills, linguistic ability and motor ability) had wide confidence intervals that spanned the line of nil effect. However, the fourth outcome, reduction in autism traits, reported a significant beneficial treatment effect for the combined gluten- and casein- free diet.


Gluten- and casein-free diets for autistic spectrum disorder.



It has been suggested that peptides from gluten and casein may have a role in the origins of autism and that the physiology and psychology of autism might be explained by excessive opioid activity linked to these peptides. Research has reported abnormal levels of peptides in the urine and cerebrospinal fluid of people with autism.


To determine the efficacy of gluten and/or casein free diets as an intervention to improve behaviour, cognitive and social functioning in individuals with autism.


Research has shown of high rates of use of complementary and alternative therapies (CAM) for children with autism including gluten and/or casein exclusion diets. Current evidence for efficacy of these diets is poor. Large scale, good quality randomised controlled trials are needed.

Now which do you think is the evidence presented by the chap trying to sell you advice on how to help manage that troublesome little sprog of yours? Of course it’s A, taken from a Cochrane review article published in 2004. Since then the article has been reassessed since further research has been conducted (read: more than a single trail performed over just 8 weeks with 31 children based upon subjectively measured outcomes). The original review article is what almost all advocates of the “feed your child normal” program enjoy citing, as a Cochrane review has a serious amount of credibility behind it. However to paraphrase Mark Crislip on the Cochrane reviews and meta analyses “If you pile hundreds of turds on top of each other don’t be surprised that they don’t transform into gold”. The best thing Cochrane reviews can throw up is what is mentioned in the conclusions for B – 1.what the evidence looks like, and 2. if more is required. Respectively these are 1. Fairly shit, 2. More is required.

Fortunatly however our fuzz faced friend has covered his own arse here with the following statement on his website :”My research staff and I do our best to constantly update this site as new information becomes available. This website is a work in progress and the information changes with time. I am not always right.” Here’s a little advice- if you have research staff who constantly update the site, ensure things that were written 3 years ago get put in. If your research staff are not able to do this simple task perhaps you should hire someone else. I am available to trawl through MedLine and Embase, for a fairly competitive salary and ensure that the lay public who are seeking help are getting some advice backed up by some real fucking data. (Note: data will not be engaging in coitus- fucking is simply there as I’ve not had my coffee today and am somewhat ratty).

Now you might wonder what harm following this advice could possibly have on the child with autism – well probably not too much. Now imagine you’re that child’s parent. Do you remember the day when you left at 7:43 for school instead of 7:45? Oh how little Quazar fretted all day, the tantrums you had to put up with. The daily schedule had been knocked out by 2 minutes, but it became a day of hell because of that. Doesn’t it sound like a lovely challenge to completely alter his diet now that we finally have him eating enough food? I’m sure that he will display that fantastic adaptability that all autistic children are famed for. Oh wait, does distressing a child immensely count as harm?

Furthermore our old friend the vaccination controvesy rears its head. A direct quote from Dr Ray’s website:”Is it possible that children given too many vaccines could develop signs of autism?   There is a debate in the medical community regarding the role of vaccines in causing or precipitating autism. I am not sure at this time but I am not ruling out the possibility that there could be a link. Over the past two decades so many new vaccines have been added to a child’s vaccination list that the medical community has little idea how all of these interact with each other and how they influence the immune system and neural tissue.”

To paraphrase: “want your children to die of any number of preventable diseases? Ready to be scared by an irresponsible paper produced by someone who got struck off by the GMC for producing it? How about not accepting one of the greatest medical advances of all time, putting your child and the rest of the population at risk?” If smallpox was endemic today would this debate (and I use the word debate in a very loose sense – it’s generally quacks vs. those who have actually looked at the evidence) still be going on? Also on a more personal note directly to Dr Ray –  Don’t we understand how vaccines (single and multiple) influence the immune system? I’m not even qualified as a doctor yet but I fucking do! I personally would put a lot less trust in a medical doctor who hadn’t paid attention in lectures.

I only highlighted a single area of bullshittery on this website as our pal Ray has a million other fantastically irresponsible ways of giving you hope by treating you naturally, without drugs – but with lovely healthy supplements. I really hope I don’t think so little of my patients in the future to foist them off with unproven quackery.

Sorry for this being such a word heavy entry – hopefully the following will give you a tickle:

P.S. I’ve not even bothered to find out Dr. Ray’s views on homoeopathy. My blood pressure is high enough as it is.



Leave a Comment
  1. Lozzipops / May 5 2011 18:15

    “Alzheimer’s disease: are some supplements as powerful as pharmaceutical drugs?”

    “HIV human immunodeficiency virus — hopeful anti-viral herbs”

    No-one who listened at medical school could peddle this crap.

  2. Tired and surly / May 9 2011 10:22

    I have attempted to contact Dr Ray concerning the about the above advice he gives about autism, and updating his literature. He has not replied, and my comment on his facebook page has been deleted. This censorship reveals this man to be a liar. His claims to relay the scientific literature for his readers have been proved null and void as his website has not been updated to take account of revisions of literature that he has previously cited.

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