Washington: Eliminating gluten and casein from the diets of children with autism brings no change in their behaviour, sleep or bowel patterns, a new American research has revealed.
The study is the most controlled diet research in autism to date.
The researchers took on the difficult yet crucial task of ensuring participants received needed nutrients, as children on gluten-free, casein-free diets may eat inadequate amounts of vitamin D, calcium, iron and high quality protein.
Unlike previous studies, they also controlled for other interventions, such as what type of behavioural treatments children received, to ensure all observed changes were due to dietary alterations.
Although no improvements were demonstrated, the researchers acknowledged that some subgroups of children, particularly those with significant gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms, might receive some benefit from dietary changes.
Susan Hyman, associate professor of Paediatrics at Golisano Children’s Hospital at the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) and principal investigator of the study, said: "It would have been wonderful for children with autism and their families if we found that the GFCF diet could really help, but this small study didn’t show significant benefits.
"However, the study didn’t include children with significant gastrointestinal disease. It’s possible those children and other specific groups might see a benefit."
Hyman added: "This is really just the tip of the iceberg. There are many possible effects of diet including over- and under-nutrition, on behaviour in children with ASD that need to be scientifically investigated so families can make informed decisions about the therapies they choose for their children."
The findings of the study will be presented May 22 at the International Meeting for Autism Research in Philadelphia.