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Evidence lacking for special diets in autism

CHICAGO – An expert panel says there's no rigorous evidence that digestive problems are more common in children with autism compared to other children, or that special diets work, contrary to claims by celebrities and vaccine naysayers.

For now, the report states, available information doesn't support special diets for autism.

Diets have been promoted by actress Jenny McCarthy, whose best-seller "Louder Than Words" detailed her search for treatments for her autistic son.



Asked by Anonymous at 2:55 PM on Jan. 5, 2010 in Politics & Current Events

This question is closed.
Answers (10)
  • As the mother of an Autistic child, I agree. I think people just need something to blame, and a miracle cure. It's understandable, but also not conducive to the child's overall well being. Sure, maybe some diet changes do work for some kids, but not all of them. Autism is as different as the many people it affects. It is a spectrum disorder, and what works for 1 will not always work for another. I would rather stick to what I know has been proven to work, as well as coming up with things that work specifically for my child, than risk losing what progress we've made on things that really have no standing.

    Answer by NightPhoenix at 2:59 PM on Jan. 5, 2010

  • I believe that special diets do help some children with autism. I have read several reports regarding different diets, and there have been many kids that have shown improvement using dietary restriction. (Just as some kids are helped with intensive therapy, early intervention, and/or medication). What I don't believe is that there is one treatment that is going to work for every child; Autism is such a wide spectrum, I can't imagine any singular treatment plan working for everyone. The other issue(s) in labeling any treatment plan "effective" is the diagnosis itself. Autism can mask underlying diagnosis; mental retardation, ADD/ADHD, personality disorders, etc. making an effective treatment allusive. There are also a number of people that are labeled "autistic" who suffer from other disorders.

    Answer by Scuba at 3:10 PM on Jan. 5, 2010

  • I think it depends what you're trying to do with the diet. I don't believe a special diet will cure Autism, but it can help with GI issues. My daughter is on the spectrum (Rett) and had terrible GI issues. When we found the diet that helped her, a lot of her behavioural issues improved because her pain was gone. So no, it didn't cure her, but it did make her more comfortable and happier.

    Answer by Bezu at 3:56 PM on Jan. 5, 2010

  • IMO, if a healthy natural diet might help, why not try that? It is harmless. Perhaps cutting casein and gluten is not as easy as pills from a doc, but i would rather try natural first. As far as diet goes...many people are lactose and gluten intolerant and just don't realize it. And artificial flavorings and colorings are not good for anyone. we have no autism in our family, and i can't imagine having to deal with something so difficult!
    I wonder if a pharma company had anything to do with that research?

    Answer by happy2bmom25 at 4:00 PM on Jan. 5, 2010

  • I think there are some kids, typical and with special needs, that benefit from taking certain products out of their diet. I don't think it's a cure all for all kids - I have a child with autism and we did the GFCF diet for a year with no progress, but I've seen it work in some of my friends kids. My stepdad always insisted that kids get more hyper when they have artificial coloring, especially red.
    A GFCF diet is in fact, probably healthier than what most Americans eat, so how in the world can it hurt?

    Answer by missanc at 4:07 PM on Jan. 5, 2010

  • I think that what we call autism is many different things. Could diet help some children who've been diagnosed? Yes. Is diet a cure for all or most. I don't think so.


    Answer by maxswolfsuit at 4:14 PM on Jan. 5, 2010

  • I agree with poster above. if it works for YOUR child, continue doing whatever you're doing. Maybe it works for Jenny's child.


    Answer by Sisteract at 4:25 PM on Jan. 5, 2010

  • My opinion: There's nothing wrong with feeding your kid good food, and certainly any child could also have certain allergies or nutritional deficiencies that this approach helps.

    But at the end of the day, Jenny McCarthy is pretty low on the list of people I would look to for medical guidance.

    Answer by Anonymous at 10:47 PM on Jan. 5, 2010

  • This AP article took one statement of the original report way out of context. If you read the report you will see that there are about 23 official statements and the overall gist is that children with autism DO have gut issues that need to be addressed and not just written off because the resulting behavioral manifestions are thought to "just be autism". In fact many of these kids are really suffering abdominal pain, but because they are non-verbal, it has been ignored. They actually say MORE research should be done on special diets like GF/CF.

    So how and why it got boiled down the the statement above is anyone's guess.

    Answer by Julie132 at 10:52 PM on Jan. 5, 2010

  • Oh and here's the link to the whole Pediatrics article:

    Answer by Julie132 at 10:55 PM on Jan. 5, 2010