First, what is biomedical treatment for autism? The word “biomedical” is a general term which means both biological and medical. The sole purpose of biomedical treatment is for the optimization of physiological factors which affect mental function and development.
These treatments include PECS, TEACCH, ABA, sensory integration and speech and language therapy.
Only One Treatment Earned an A Grade
Two pediatricians conducted a rigorous comprehensive study on alternative autism treatments, both having the first name Susan: Susan Hyman and Susan Levy. Though their analysis assigned every treatment a grade for the research’s quality done up to this point, the letter grade mark does not represent a ranking of the treatment’s effectiveness and safety.
The two pediatricians graded the treatments based on the amount of testing conducted, which often was quite scanty. Treatments receiving an “A” grade included randomized control trials and meta-analyses that compare research from different labs. Treatments that received a “B” grade which had been studied in ideal controlled and uncontrolled trials. The “C” grade, the lowest possible category, were assigned to treatments based on only anecdotes, case reports, and theories.
Both magnesium and vitamin B6 have been a popular treatment for autism.
DMG –Grade: B
Dimethylglycine (DMG), a derivative of the amino acid glycine and an antioxidant, is promoted to boost the immune system. Two double-blind studies of DMG showed it had no effect on autistic symptoms.
Melatonin is a hormone created by the pineal gland which regulates sleep. Melatonin supplements are popularly used to treat insomnia. Autistic people often report having sleeping problems. One study found that melatonin helped autistic people in falling asleep and remaining asleep.
Vitamin C–Grade: B
One study reported less repetitive behavior in children with autism in a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of vitamin c.
Amino Acids–Grade: C; L-carnosine–Grade: B
Abnormalities in neurotransmitting have been a focus of autistic-related research. Some amino acids behave like neurotransmitters or cause their production. Some amino acids such as tryptophan have been used as alternative treatments. To date no trials have yet examined the benefits of supplementing with GABA, taurine, lysine, or tryptophan. L-carnosine which has antioxidant properties, is promoted as an anti-aging solution. A double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of L-carnosine in 31 autistic children saw improvement in both verbal expression and receptive vocabulary.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids–Grade: B
Polyunsaturated fatty acids, found in certain omega-3 fatty acids, are vital for brain development and could not be produced by the body. Fatty acid supplements like fish oil have grown popular for kids with autism. A randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind, six-week pilot study reported improved behavior in 13 children with severe behavioral problems because of autism.
Folic Acid–Grade: C
Oxidative Stress had been theorized to explain the atypical brain development often seen in autism, and abnormal levels of antioxidants have been found in autistic children. However, there exists zero controlled, randomized trials testing the theory that supplementation with folic acid would have any benefit.
Secretin, a gastrointestinal hormone, is a well studied autistic treatment. Over a dozen expertly-executed studies have failed to show a single benefit.