The autism treatment known as chelation, which attempts to eliminate metals such as mercury from the body, is not only ineffective, but may be harmful, say Baylor University researchers.
"The chemical substances used in chelation treatment have a myriad of potentially serious side effects such as fever, vomiting, hypertension, hypotension, cardiac arrhythmias and hypocalcemia, which can cause cardiac arrest," said Baylor researcher Tonya N. Davis.
In the study, Davis reviewed the findings of five published studies on chelation. In the studies, 82 participants ages 3 to 14 received chelation treatment ranging from one to seven months. Ultimately, Davis found that the research studies did not support the use of chelation - as some have claimed - and were "insufficient, which is the lowest level of certainty."
In one example mentioned in the research, "a 5-year-old with ASD died from cardiac arrest caused by hypocalcemia while receiving intravenous chelation." And, a 2008 clinical study of chelation treatment for autism was suspended due to potential safety risks associated with chelation.
"Chelation therapy represents the 'cart before the horse' scenario where the hypothesis supporting the use of chelation was not validated prior to using it as a form of treatment. Evidence does not support the hypothesis that ASD symptoms are associated with specific levels of metals in the body," said Davis, who summarized the treatment as "unfounded and illogical."
"Most parents believe in 'leaving no stone unturned' when trying to treat their children with [autism] and are willing to try anything they believe might help their child," Davis noted. "My hope is that this research will help parents make informed choices when selecting treatments for their child with [autism]. While I understand a parent's desire to try anything and everything that may help their child, as a researcher, it is difficult to watch a family spend time, money, and resources on interventions that research has found to be ineffective, or worse, potentially dangerous."
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Source: Baylor University