Jenny McCarthy has decided that a smattering of anecdotal reports about the effectiveness of diet and vitamins in easing the symptoms of autism is enough “data” for her liking. McCarthy’s 5-year-old son has autism and she travels around America unfortunately giving talks about the alleged benefits of natural medicines. She accuses doctors of failing to acknowledge that diets and vitamins can be used to treat autism. Newsflash Jenny: Diet and “vitamins” (by that I mean proper nutrition), in combination with exercise, are beneficial for everyone.
She says, “I’ve been speaking to moms across the country who are all shouting out the same thing: ‘This (diet and supplement intake) is working.’ It’s so heartbreaking to see the medical community not support something called diet and vitamins. And it pains us, city after city after city. I see this heartbreak on these mom’s faces. Autism isn’t covered by (medical) insurance. If things like diets and supplements are working, then why not support it? These kids are getting better and I will not shut up and will not stop fighting about it.”
Yeah, it’s really heartbreaking that the medical community would rather do things that work (cognitive training, early intervention, health and wellness, adaptive aides, etc.) to help people who have autism rather than stuff them full of vitamins, possibly without consulting a dietitian to see if that is even necessary. Why not blindly support vitamins and “natural” medicine? Because food is enough to give proper nutrition and supplements could be unnecessary, simply providing expensive pee, or harmful. “Supplements” aren’t regulated by the FDA which means they could contain anything – even harmful hormones and drugs.
Also, what is natural about a bunch of chemicals in pill form (vitamins)? Isn’t that exactly what these same people use as an argument against other medicine? Unless you’ve picked the root from the ground yourself, you can’t be sure of the ingredients of the vitamins and supplements you get in the store. Also, the root itself may contain substances that are harmful. I’ll point out the obvious cliche that, as Mythbusters illustrated, even eating poppy seeds can get you to test positive on an illicit drug test – and what is more natural than eating a plant you’ve picked from the ground? The fact is, there are many supplements on the market today that do not have sufficient clinical trials to back them up. And as they say, the plural of “anecdote” is “anecdotes”, not “data”.
I understand the emotional turmoil that goes on for parents with autism, not being able to connect with their children and not knowing what to do to help. It is a desperate situation and it’s easy to fall victim to snake oil salesmen and the latest health scheme. I feel the deepest sympathy for families in this situation. But I do not condone spreading personal beliefs that are not backed up by evidence and using public “fame” and influence to convince other families to distrust doctors, scientists, and medical research. That is despicable, regardless of my sympathy for her situation, and the medical community needs to stand up for itself.
I realize that engaging in arguments gives the air or false legitimacy to these sorts of claims, but I feel that it does far more damage in these cases for the medical/scientific community not to anticipate these problems (considering history) and launch “preemptive strikes”, so to speak. We need to get out there first and tell everyone about the amazing new autism treatments that have been shown, through research, to be effective. We need to give people hope and let them know that we can help and we aren’t out to make their lives more miserable by “ignoring” alternative treatments”. The qualified need to provide help and information so that families don’t find them in the arms of someone not qualified to give them that hope.