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Thursday, June 20, 2024

Ask Ms. Scientist: vaccines and nighttime snacking

Dear Ms. Scientist,

Do early childhood vaccines cause autism?            

                          —Molly F.

No. The theory that vaccines cause autism has been discredited with numerous scientific studies, regardless of other claims. The controversy began in 1998 with a poorly executed study by Andrew Wakefield that was later retracted. Wakefield, now stripped of his medical license, claimed that the Measles, Mumps, Rubella (MMR) vaccine caused a series of intestinal problems that prevented neurodevelopmental proteins from being obtained, resulting in autism. The study’s critical flaw is that 90 percent of British children received the MMR vaccine around the same age as autism symptoms typically develop. Correlation does not mean causation and, in fact, it is expected that children with autism have recently had the MMR vaccine. Furthermore, the study did not acknowledge the incidence of autism in unvaccinated children and reported that other indicators were at abnormal levels when they were actually normal.

Dear Ms. Scientist,

Why is it bad to eat within two hours of falling asleep?                

                          —Connor L.

Weight gain, sleep disturbance and heartburn or acid reflux have been associated with eating too soon before going to bed. Weight gain is not caused by the time of day the meal is eaten but by the types of food typically chosen for midnight snacks, like high-calorie ice cream or Topperstix. Sleep disturbance can occur when bloatedness and an upset stomach keep you awake. Also, lying down before food has settled in your stomach may cause some of the acidic contents to irritate the esophageal sphincter and esophagus, causing heartburn or acid reflux.

Ask Ms. Scientist is written by Corinne Thornton. If you have a burning science question you want her to answer,

tweet @DC_Science or email it to

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