Autism is a hot topic these days, and not even peer-reviewed journals can evade being drawn into its gyre. The real reasons for the growth in autism prevalence are related to expanded diagnosis, greater awareness and recognition, and shifts from other special education labels to autism. That hasn't stopped some researchers and peer-reviewed journals from using autism as a way to grab headlines, and it doesn't stop anyone from linking just about anything to autism.
Last week, Grist contributor Tom Laskawy took a recent "study" alleging a link between high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and autism and highlighted it, calling it "suggestive research" that shifts the HFCS debate in an "unexpected and troubling way." The paper Laskawy wrote about is troubling, but not in the way that he argues.
Problem No. 1: This isn't a study. It is, as the abstract itself says and as the journal, Clinical Epigenetics, has labeled it, a review. That means a review of existing literature, not a study, with no original research presented, much less "suggestive" research. In other words, all those headlines -- including Grist's original one, which has now been rewritten -- blaring about a "study" finding a "link"? There is no study, and there's no link or association or relationship established in this paper between autism and HFCS consumption. In fact, as you will see below, the two don't even share a trend.