Wednesday, September 06, 2006

OLD DADS ARE THE NEW REFRIGERATOR MOMS

The other day, two news stories of interest came out. One reports on a study linking autism to gut microbes, and suggests the benefits of administering probiotics.

The other story tells of a recent report that purports to find a correlation between autism and the advanced age of fathers. Never mind that the “findings” were extrapolated from a very small sample of data over 20 years old, which didn’t take environmental exposures into account. It was hailed as convincing evidence that autism is primarily genetic, whether or not anything was read other than the abstract.

It was predictable that the media would jump all over the “old fart” story and virtually ignore the study that might implicate an explanation ⎯ and a solution ⎯ that did not involve genetics. Equally predictable, however, is that Dan Olmsted would look beyond the press release and actually question the “findings.” Read Mr. Olmsted’s take here.

Most rational people accept that genetics plays a role in predisposing children to autism. It may even be the primary factor in some cases. But one cannot add two and two together and try to convince me that the sum is 300,000.

13 Comments:

Blogger Kristina Chew said...

Your title has been percolating in my mind since reading about the "old dad" research.

9/7/06, 1:32 AM  
Blogger ballastexistenz said...

I don't think that the comparison to refrigerator mothers is legitimate here, or at least, that comparison can lead easily to very not-legitimate misinterpretations.

Even if old fathers are not truly the cause of autism, there's a big difference between being an old father and a refrigerator mother. A refrigerator mother was seen as a person who was behaving in a certain way that in turn caused the child to react a certain way emotionally. An old father is seen in terms of something biological -- sperm and genetics, neither of which say the same kind of thing about him that "refrigerator mother" does about mothers.

Because of that the analogy seems liable to misdirect.

9/7/06, 9:32 AM  
Blogger mommyguilt said...

Hey Wade! I haven't made it over to the "old father" story yet, but SmallBoy's father was 28 when we had him, by no means an old fart - just a fart (LOL). But I found the article on the gut microbes and probiotics rather interesting. I hope some more work is done on that study. I'd be incredibly curious to find out where that leads.

I can imagine why some of the parents pulled out, though, when it was time to go to the placebo. It must be heartbreaking after seeing such gains in your child to think that it might all just "vanish".

9/7/06, 12:40 PM  
Blogger Wade Rankin said...

Just to clarify things, the title of the post did not mean to imply a direct analogy between "refrigerator moms" and "old dads." I only meant to convey that, in my very humble opinion, anyone who seeks to draw a direct causal link between paternal age and autism without taking other factors into account ⎯ particularly when that connection is based on very stale data ⎯ is guilty of the same short sightedness that kept people believing in the “refrigerator mom” hypothesis for far too long.

The real story is how the mainstream media and certain pundits jumped on board the “old fart” bandwagon, while completely ignoring the gut-microbe/probiotic study.

9/7/06, 3:26 PM  
Blogger Ian Parker said...

"The real story is how the mainstream media and certain pundits jumped on board the “old fart” bandwagon, while completely ignoring the gut-microbe/probiotic study."

Yes, but gut microbes require thought, and may even suggest that some action is warranted. Blaming everything on us 'old farts' is easy and effortless. Heck, we should be grateful to have made it this far, let alone gotten any... (where's my cane?)

9/7/06, 6:39 PM  
Blogger Joseph said...

I agree with Amanda in that I don't see the comparison to "refrigerator mother". The short sightedness that kept people believing in the refrigerator mom hypothesis is no different to the short sightedness that keeps people believing in the thimerosal hypothesis even after the thimerosal dose per child is at most a third of that used in the 1980s and the number of autistic kids in all age groups has not dropped one bit, and in fact, continues to rise.

I think there probably is something to the father's age finding. Of course, it doesn't mean all autistic kids have old dads. I conceived my son when I was 30.

9/8/06, 11:19 AM  
Blogger Fore Sam said...

It's only Joseph's "spun" statistics that say autism is still rising. Reputable scientists like Mark Geier say it is decreasing.
Comparing guesses like "refrigerator mother" to proof like "Mercury poisoning" would be considered a poor analogy, Joseph. You're also taking great liberties with your dose analogy since we really don't know how much mercury is still in the vaccines. Some have expiration dates of 2008 with the full compliment of thimerosal. Some are processed with thim- erosal and are said to contain only a trace but it isn't mentioned on the package insert. Some have been found with the full dose of thimerosal with no mention on the package insert. Eli Lilly would commend you for trying Joe, but your propaganda can't stand up to scrutiny. You should try the truth sometime; it's better for your well-being.

9/9/06, 9:49 AM  
Blogger Joseph said...

It's only Joseph's "spun" statistics that say autism is still rising. Reputable scientists like Mark Geier say it is decreasing.

I'm sorry you're unable to interpret the numbers youself and have to rely on the word of Geier & Geier. The data is publicly available and you could if you tried. The caseload in the 3-5 cohort or any other cohort has never dropped. Mark Geier thinks the number of "new cases" has dropped, but this results from an amateurish interpretation of the data, as I have thoroughly explained here. One thing people need to ask themselves is why Geier & Geier used this "new cases" idea in their paper and not regular epidemiological measures like prevalence or incidence.

9/9/06, 10:18 AM  
Blogger Wade Rankin said...

Now boys, let's not start the same old argument you two get into all over the bloggosphere. Let's try to stay on-topic.

9/9/06, 10:34 AM  
Blogger Fore Sam said...

Wade;
Nice post. I haven't looked at your blog much but it's a pleasure to read the thoughts of sane people who want to help children. I just can't find it in me to be nice to those who want children to suffer with debilitating conditions.

9/9/06, 11:53 AM  
Blogger Wade Rankin said...

Thanks, John. I wasn't offended by anything either you or Joseph posted here. I was merely pointing out that the topic on this post was the poor job done by the media letting themselvesbe spoon fed and jumping all over this meaningless "old man" theory, while virtually ignoring the re;ease of the gut microbe findings.

9/9/06, 2:10 PM  
Blogger Fore Sam said...

Yup, Wade, I watched a few bubbleheaded bleached blondes reporting the story. Perhaps their advertisers had something to do with pumping the story.
Joseph seems to be a wonderful ambassador for Eli Lilly, don't you think?

9/9/06, 2:44 PM  
Anonymous mimi said...

Neurotoxins are neurotoxins. If they come from the environment, or they are injected into a developing body. there is nothing defencable about it. In the same way that Philip Morris had to look for new ventures, so should Eli Lilly and fast food joints. We don't eat lead chip flakes for breakfast and I say, hold the toxins, please. a little is always too much. The general discussion is correct, eating healthy, and repairing internal systems to operate optimaly, is difficult. It requires thought, control, ans sense. Under those circumstances scape goating only requires the pointing of a digit. No criminal, no crime, "see how easy that is?"

9/19/06, 1:02 PM  

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