Sunday, March 11, 2012

Gluten-Free Diet Improves Autism Symptoms

Gluten-Free Casein-Free Diet Improves Autism Symptoms in Children

Autism Researchers Examine Link to Allergies — Gluten and Casein in Particular

For those readers that are looking to a gluten-free diet in hopes of improving the symptoms of autism, new research from Penn State College of Medicine is lending some scientific basis to what many suspect: that a gluten-free and casein-free diet may lead to improvements in behavior and physiological symptoms in some children with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

As noted in their findings, "...autism may be more than a neurological disease -- it may involve the GI tract and the immune system." And, "Gluten and casein seem to be the most immunoreactive [allergens]", and were therefore the allergens chosen for further examination by this study.

Gluten-Free, Casein-Free, or Both: Which Diet Is Best for Autism?

Having followed this discussion for years, I have been looking forward to more in-depth scientific research on the subject. This particular Penn State study relied on information provided by 387 parents / primary-caregivers about their autistic children; a 90-item online survey on "GI symptoms, food allergy diagnoses, and suspected food sensitivities, as well as their children's degree of adherence to a gluten-free, casein-free diet"..

The study results did seem to indicate that the combination of gluten-free and casein-free works best:
"According to the researchers, some of the parents who filled out the surveys had eliminated only gluten or only casein from their children's diets, but survey results suggested that parents who completely eliminated both gluten and casein from their child's diet reported the most benefit."
The full results appeared online this month in the journal Nutritional Neuroscience.  But, i

But, I am glad the researchers also hinted at the following fact, since I consider the results a bit subjective even as they are quite valuable for spotting commonality and trends:
"While more rigorous research is needed, our findings suggest that a gluten-free, casein-free diet might be beneficial for some children on the autism spectrum," Pennesi said. "It is also possible that there are other proteins, such as soy, that are problematic for these children."
That is something to keep in mind. Although the results indicate that improvements were seen in GFCF diets, this study is not concluding that gluten and/or casein are the cause of autism or something that, if completely removed from the diet, will cure autism. Autism is a complex condition, and this is just one piece of the puzzle.  What the study definitely suggests, per the aggregate subjective feedback provided by parents of autistic children, is that a gluten-free/casein-free diet may help some children with autism improve their symptoms.

Remove Gluten and Casein to Improve Autism?

So, if you have a child with autism, should you move them to a gluten-free, casein-free diet? The researchers offered the following advice regarding this:
"If parents are going to try a gluten-free, casein-free diet with their children, they really need to stick to it in order to receive the possible benefits," she said. "It might give parents an opportunity to talk with their physicians about starting a gluten-free, casein-free diet with their children with ASD."

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1 comment:

Megan said...

I'm reading the book House Rules by Jodi Picolt right now and one of the characters in the book has Asperger's Syndrome. His mom keeps him on a gluten free diet, glad to see there is evidence backing this up finally!