Melatonin, Autism and Dr. Oz

Mehmet Oz… plays a doctor on TV

I spend a great deal of time and energy convincing my patients to administer melatonin to their autistic children. I wish that parents would admit to more sleep problems, so the natural supplement would get used more often. It helps biorhythms, sleep, REM sleep, memory and mood. There are multiple studies in the literature to demonstrate safety and effectiveness. I have previously documented much of that information, and the children who take it generally improve.

Along comes our friend, Dr. Oz, who recently asked, “What is the most misused sleep aid that people use?” One answer from the audience, “Alcohol.” “That is a very good answer, but it’s not the one I’m looking for,” offered the good doctor. “It’s melatonin.” How does he know that? The only study I could find (pubmed, google scholar) that actually documented this answer:

dimenhydrinate (Dramamine)   21%
acetaminophen (Tylenol)           19%
diphenhydramine (Benadryl)     15%
alcohol                                            13%
herbal products                             11%

Another article listed Nyquil, Sominex, Nytol, Tylenol PM, and Compoz. Why didn’t Mehmet talk about these commonly used products? Maybe because some of them are his sponsors?

So, in the first place, Dr. Oz is just plain wrong. But, let’s see what other important information the professor proffered.

“It affects our sexuality! When are women most likely to desire sex? Summer.” A blog named 88 Strange-But-True Sex Facts omitted that one. Actually, most births occur in September, making winter the most prolific baby-making season. Oops, he’s wrong again.

“Darkness elevates melatonin, and that depresses your sex drive.” Well, even if that were true (couldn’t find the reference), what would that have to do with an autistic child? “One milligram is all you need.” Oz, you are no wizard. Lots of patients report improvements with 3, 5 or even 10 mg. doses. The one accurate thing that he did say was that it should be taken at the same time every day, even weekends.

“Let’s talk about what’s really happening inside the brain.” Then, Dr O and a female audience member wearing a lab coat, put on rubber gloves (looks VERY medical), and use an IV bag with fluorescent green liquid to “demonstrate” what happens. This is simply bad show-and-tell. Mehmet, just because an explanation “makes sense” doesn’t mean that there is a shred of scientific truth.

“Now we’re goin’ to talk about what is wrong with it… don’t want to do things like kill your libido…” (couldn’t find reference). The host then points out that “valerian root, ginseng and GABA are actually effective…” Dude, do you do any fact checking at all? Valerian root contains more than 14 compounds, including phenols and alkaloids that may cause problems in people taking other medications.  Ginseng – The most common side effect is trouble sleeping (insomnia). And, although GABA may be helpful for some, it is poorly documented and I have found that, as a supplement, it produces an excitatory effect in more than a few patients.

This is not medical information, it’s a television show. My advice to Dr. Oz: Stop delivering your opinions as gospel and go back to selling green coffee beans.

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5 Responses to “Melatonin, Autism and Dr. Oz”

  1. Klonopin says:

    It’s remarkable to pay a visit this website and reading the views of all mates regarding this article, while I am also eager of getting knowledge.

  2. JOSE CARLOS MOMMY says:

    DR. OZ is so incredibly wrong.
    < > was a patient of DR. UDELL.
    Dr. Udell started my son on Melatonin.
    It changed his life.He sleeps 8 hours thanks to Melatonin.
    Due to economic reasons, I can’t frequently visit Dr. UDELL.
    YET, Dr. Udell changed our quality of life .
    He introduced us to MELATONIN and a series of other biomedical treatments.
    EVERY MEDICAL ALTERNATIVE HE suggested was right on the mark.
    DR. OZ should become an actor in the next remake of THE WIZARD OF OZ!!!

  3. JOSE CARLOS MOMMY says:

    < > GRATEFUL TO DR. UDELL and KAREN

  4. mellexrx says:

    I normally don’t agree with any TV doctors and I know that melatonin works on my kid, his siblings…and me. Dr. Oz is off on the melatonin issue, wrong about the sex drive thing but he actually turn out to be right about Valerian…due to its GABA effects. I know this post was written over 2 years ago but the recent study that found that people with ASD have a lower level of GABA activity in the brain. Providing extra GABA activity with GABAergic drugs may help…this means that herbs which show GABA activity will too, like Valerian and Kava.

    • Dr. Udell says:

      Thanks for your response.
      We have now examined over 2000 patients with developmental delays over the past 8 years. My experience has been that GABA is not only ineffective in 75% of the patients with ASD, it makes some of them VERY ‘stimmy’ and the parents have to discontinue it. As for the Valerian.. the multiple other ingredients are not tolerated as well as simple melatonin. Of course, either/both are often given by the parents, so this is our experience.

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