Of all of the health crises affecting our nation’s children today, the growing autism epidemic is without doubt the most sensitive and controversial. While the debate over its potential causes isn’t likely to cool down anytime soon, I’m thrilled to report that at least one proposed solution has made headlines recently—and it's a solution supported by the conclusions of not one, but two, groundbreaking clinical studies.
The new trials, published this past October in BMC Clinical Pharmacology, investigated the benefits of a chelating agent called dimercaptosuccinic acid (DMSA) in young children with autism. The results point the way to a very encouraging development in the fight against this increasingly common diagnosis.
Researchers found that, among the 65 autistic children between the ages of three and eight that participated in this study, daily doses of oral DMSA increased urinary excretion of several toxic heavy metals, including lead, by as much as 10-fold. What’s more, treatment with DMSA for just three days was able to normalize critical levels of the antioxidant glutiathone—the body’s most powerful natural defense against heavy metal toxicity—for one to two full months among almost all of the children. Most important, however, were the promising effects seen on autism markers such as language, cognition, and sociability.
Researchers hope to confirm these results with more formal clinical trials in the future. While this current study may only be preliminary, it’s outcome can hardly be considered a coincidence. It’s well known that mercury and lead can potentiate neurotoxins as well as other environmental toxins already present in the body or excreted by various pathogens (such as infections, mold, etc.). Although autism is a multi-factorial condition, it’s clear that removing heavy metals in a safe way is an important component of an effective treatment strategy.
It’s also a popular strategy of many DAN doctors—so named for their participation in Defeat Autism Now!, a project established by the Autism Research Institute (ARI) in 1995, in response to the slow pace of research in this field. These doctors specialize in treating autism, and have been using compounds like DMSA as an integral part of their protocols for some time now. The results of this recent trial undeniably confirm the critical importance of this practice… but unfortunately, that’s where the good news ends.
It should be noted that any study on the benefits of DMSA in autistic patients is considered off-label —and that currently, there is no FDA approved drug or treatment specifically for autism in the United States. What’s worse, DMSA recently lost its Food Supplement status with the FDA, which now considers the compound to be a pharmaceutical agent for the treatment of lead poisoning—thus limiting its availability to access by prescription only.
This development means that, in states that do not allow naturopathic doctors to write prescriptions, a valuable tool in the fight against autism has been lost. To these doctors—and to the many concerned parents of autistic children—I’d like to suggest a combination of modified citrus pectin and alginates as a viable alternative. These gentle but powerful chelating agents are derived from natural compounds found in the rind of citrus fruits, and marine algae. They are extremely safe and effective in removing heavy metals from the body.