The study was headed by Susan Hyman, MD, associate professor of pediatrics, Golisano Children’s Hospital at the University of Rochester Medical Center in Rochester, N.Y. The new study results follow another report, published in the summer edition of Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, concluding that 14 published studies of the gluten-free, casein-free diet did not find it useful.
The autism diet is based on a theory that some autistic children have insufficient enzyme activity in their gastrointestinal tracts, resulting in incomplete digestion of casein, a protein found in milk and other dairy products, and gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, and other grains and the incomplete breakdown is what leads to the symptoms of Autism.
Hyman and her colleagues enrolled 22 children with Autistic Spectrum Disorder, all between 2 and 1/2 and 5 and 1/2 years old. After dropouts, 14 finished the 18-week study. None of these 14 participants had wheat or milk allergies, celiac disease (in which the small intestine is damaged from eating gluten), or iron deficiency. All children were put on a strict gluten-free, casein-free diet. In addition, the children were given 10 hours of weekly intenstive behavioral interventions.
After being on the autism diet for at least four weeks, the children were given a ”challenge” snack once a week with either 20 grams of wheat flour, 20 grams of evaporated milk, both, or neither. The routine continued until each child received each snack three times over 12 weeks. All of the snacks looked identical.
Parents, teachers, and researchers observed the children’s behavior and symptoms before the challenges and two and 24 hours after. They measured sleep , bowel problems, socialization, and language skills.
”There was no difference with the challenge compared to the placebo,” Hyman says.
Critics of the study point out that the study time is short, and that it may take six months to one year to see the positive effects of the gluten-free, cassein-free diet.
Source: University of Rochester Medical Center (2010, May 20). Popular autism diet does not demonstrate behavioral improvement.