A gluten-free, casein-free diet may improve behavior and physiological problems in some children with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), according to research at Penn State. The study is the first to use survey data from parents to document the effectiveness of a gluten-free, casein-free diet on children with ASD. The scientists also believe that soy may cause problems for some of these kids.
“Research has shown that children with ASD commonly have GI [gastrointestinal] symptoms,” says Christine Pennesi, medical student at Penn State College of Medicine. “Notably, a greater proportion of our study population reported GI and allergy symptoms than what is seen in (most children). Some experts have suggested that gluten- and casein (dairy)-derived peptides (linked amino acids) cause an immune response in children with ASD, and others have proposed that the peptides could trigger GI symptoms and behavioral problems.”
In the surveys, parents who restricted their children’s diets found that the kids had fewer intestinal problems, better social behavior, better language, improved eye contact, engagement and longer attention spans. The study appears in the journal Nutritional Neuroscience.