May 20th, 2010
09:56 AM ET

Study: Gluten-free diets do not improve autism behavior

By Trisha Henry
CNN Medical Producer

Keeping the proteins found in wheat, barley, rye and dairy out of the diets of children with autism does not lead to behavior improvements, new research has found.

While many doctors do not recommend a special diet as an autism therapy, there are widespread reports from families on the internet lauding the success of keeping foods containing gluten and casein out of an autistic child's diet. Currently, nearly one in three children with autism is given a gluten- and casein-free diet in an effort to reduce symptoms of the neurodevelopmental disease, study authors say.

Actress and activist Jenny McCarthy is one the most vocal parents who claims her son's autism symptoms improved when she switched his diet.

The cause of autism, a neurodevelopmental disorder that hinders communication and social interaction, is not yet known and there is no cure. While there are a few science-based therapies, which applied early in a child's development can improve the behavior in some children, for many families finding way to help children can be challenging and lead them to try many unproven treatments.

Researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center in upstate New York put the gluten- and casein-free diet to most stringent test today, according to lead author Dr. Susan Hyman.

They looked at 14 children with autism between the ages of 2½ and 5½ years old – but without celiac disease or allergies to milk and wheat.

First they removed gluten and casein from the children’s diet. After four weeks, the children were randomly given either gluten or casein, both, or a placebo, through a carefully measured snack. Parents, teachers and a research assistants were questioned about the child's behavior before and after the snack was eaten.

"Under these controlled circumstances we did not find an effect on behavior in response to challenges with gluten and casein in children with autism but without GI disease," says Hyman.

Parents need to be aware of the potential cost and measure the benefit before they consider trying a new treatment for their child, says IMFAR Program Committee program chair, David Mandell.

Hyman and Mandell both say more studies need to be done looking at the effects of diet and the specific subtypes of autism.

The study is being released this weekend at the International Meeting for Autism Research in Philadelphia.

Autism usually develops by the time a child is 3 years old. An average of 1 in 110 children suffers from some type of an autism spectrum disorder.

Children with autism can have one of several complex neurological disorders, which lead to social impairments, communication difficulties and restrictive and repetitive behaviors. According to the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an average of 1 in 110 children suffers from some type of an autism spectrum disorder.

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soundoff (185 Responses)
  1. TanyaLasagna

    Very interesting study; 14 subjects is a tremendously small sample size, though, and I wonder if it's truly reasonable to extrapolate this data to the boader population of autistic children? I hope researchers continue to explore this area, with larger test populations.

    May 20, 2010 at 10:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. SB

    crazy idea, but why not go to the parents who claim this diet is working and test their kids?! Because, you know, it's so much fun to spend tons of extra $ per month on this diet, let alone the control/supervision it takes to stick with the diet. Of course these parents don't know what they're talking about. Some study....

    May 20, 2010 at 10:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Elizabeth Merrin

    I have read studies that the specific carbohydrate diet is supposed to help autism. This takes the gluten-free diet a step further and eliminates all grains and potatoes, leaving just fruits, vegetables, unprocessed meats, nuts, and no processed chemicals. See http://www.breakingtheviciouscycle.com

    May 20, 2010 at 10:48 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Dad-to-2 with ASD

      Much of the criticism voiced here is that it takes 6 months or more for the diet to work. My problem with that critique is that LOTS of things happen in 6 months. One of my two has seen dramatic changes in the past 5 months–without a single change in diet. It becomes nearly impossible to know whether the GFCF diet is the cause, or something else is. Some parents here may have children with GI problems, so they aren't relevant for addressing this study. As for those who say that reintroducing glutin or casein creates problems, I've heard countless stories of people who stop eating other types of food as well and have a hard time eating the food again (like vegetarians who try meat again).

      January 2, 2011 at 02:16 | Report abuse |
  4. Concerned parent

    As the parent of an autistic child I am appalled by this article. Your research is incredibly flawed. My son had a granola bar with gluten AND dairy a month ago (mistakenly given to him by a teacher). His his pupils became dialated. His behavior and ability to funcion plummeted. He was unable to complete thoughts verbally and performance in his schoolwork dropped markedly. This lasted the better part of 4 weeks. He has been on a GFCF diet for over five years. On more than one occassion he has ingested foods with casein or dairy. Each time the reaction is the same. This study does not allow nearly enough time for any changes to fully manifest. Stop publishing this type of potentially damafging drivel....please!

    May 20, 2010 at 10:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. CK

    14 kids?? Please! Autism affects different kids differently, and every kids has different issues. That's why it's a spectrum. If anyone makes a decision on this report – please don't. Do more research and talk to a DAN doctor if you can.

    May 20, 2010 at 11:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. TheBear

    Come on, a sample size of only 14 children? And it has yet to be peer reviewed.

    I don't think any conclusions should be drawn from this one study.

    May 20, 2010 at 11:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Amanda

    I have a son who is on the autism spectrum and who is also on the Gluten and Caesin diet. When he started his first year of public school my son had irregular bowel movements and very runny bowel movement every day and I couldn't figure out why.

    That is when i started him on the diet and this was back in September 2009. Now 8 months later he no longer has runny bowel movements and his behavior has changed tremendously!!!!! He is talking much more than he used to and has patience .

    When I started reading about the gluten and caesin free diet, every book I read mentioned it takes atleast 6 months in order to tell a difference in your child. The gluten and caesin that is in their body has to work it way out and that takes time, certainly longer than 4 weeks.

    I would greatly recommend this diet to parents and i believe it has been a life saver for my son.

    May 20, 2010 at 11:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Kayla

    Considering it takes some time for children and adults to be affected by gluten and casein in the foods they consume, it's alarming to me that they were asked immediately after consuming the snacks. Did anyone follow up with the parents to see how their children did in the days following the reintroduction of gluten/casein?

    May 20, 2010 at 11:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. MD

    This is a classic example of reporting studies as conclusive that aren't. They tested 14 (14!!) children based on one snack. I have no children and nothing vested in autism treatments, but I know from personal experience the changes that diet has on health, mood and behavior are gradual and take time. It would have been more beneficial to track behaviors at the beginning of the diet and at the end of the four weeks. Small changes may have taken place that they missed because they somehow thought one snack would make them suddenly go nuts. Dumb.

    May 20, 2010 at 11:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Jill

    I hope the testing was more extensive than described above! Gluten and casein removed from the diet for just 4 weeks? I was advised by an allergist that it can sometimes take more than 6 weeks for certain substances to work their way out of the body. One snack with gluten and casein and then the test subjects were studied? I was advised by an allergist that certain substances need to 'build up' or reach certain levels in the system before those substances make a significant impact on the human body. Per this article, it sounds as though the researchers were testing for an allergy and not an intolerance.

    May 20, 2010 at 11:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Tom

    Gluten can take months to get out of the body. This diet is helpful to many people. However it takes 6 months to a year to see any real results. I have witnessed the diet work a miracle on an autistic child.

    May 20, 2010 at 11:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Steve F

    I am getting really tired of the established medical community's failings in regard to autism.

    Maybe they will come back to "refrigerator mothers" being the cause.

    We can tell every time when our son sneaks the wrong snack at school when he gets home.

    I would love to skip the diet if I could but the adverse effects every time we try make it impossible.

    Every kid is different though.

    May 20, 2010 at 11:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. twinsand2more

    "Most stringent test"?????!?!!!! By who's standards? 4 weeks and 14 kids....get real.......

    May 20, 2010 at 11:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Tracy Shober

    Wow...14 kids? 4 whole weeks? What a pathetic study...
    As already stated by other posters, it can take 6 months or more for all traces of gluten and casein and their by-products to be eliminated from a child's system. Did this study take into account the fact that soy can mimic gluten (I assume soy was not eliminated from these children's diets)? How strictly were these children's diets controlled? (various forms/derivatives of gluten and casein are in so many foods that one would not expect to see them in and might not be caught simply by reading the ingredient list)
    My son has been on a medically-prescribed gluten, casein and soy-free diet for 2 years now...he is a different child than the one diagnosed with autism 3 years ago. On the one occasion last year when he accidentally ingested a piece of milk chocolate at a school party, the teachers very quickly noticed significant differences in his demeanor and behavior.
    I don't know if this diet can help all autistic children, but I hope this 'study' does not discourage any families from trying this treatment. It can be intimidating, but the diet can be implemented at reasonable cost and there is much on-line support for families living with these dietary restrictions. God bless!

    May 20, 2010 at 11:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Dr REL

    Gluten-Free diets, with the connotation that Celiac Disease is involved, has been a scam of the Inter-Nut health fakes for a number of years.
    The entire independent medical research industry has known, since 1999 (thanks to Yale), that ultrasound during pregnancy causes fetal brain neurons to migrate and therefore, naturally, causes most autism/ADD/ADHD.
    Thanks to quick lobbying by the manufacturers of ultrasound equipment, that clinical trial was prevented from being entered into the record during ultrasound regulation and today it causes autism/ADD/ADHD in 1 of 27 children. And, by threatening Yale with the cancellation of all medical research funded by those same companies they kept Yale, (and others) from following up on the results of those trials.
    Recently, again thanks to some quick thinking by the same industry and the federal regulator as equal participants, organophosphates, (basically phased out of use by the Ag industry already), is taking the blame for ADHD; an excellent smokescreen! Blame organophosphates, which are mostly banned already, diverting attention, once again, from the ultrasounds. Excellent!
    Gluten-free issues (Celiac Disease) occurs in 1/10 of 1% of the world's population, 96% of whom live in Ireland and Scotland. The apparent tie-in was that some individuals, living on a diet of processed food paste, had intestinal issues. Eliminating processed food paste relieved those symptoms. So, it was assumed it was Celiac Disease instead of the real culprit: processed food paste impacting the intestines.
    How someone made a connection with that and autism is beyond the power of the universe to explain proving that for every problem there is at least one scam ready to run.

    May 20, 2010 at 11:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. GV-New Jersey

    With all due respect to Dr. Gupta's story, if you read the term "snack" in the study you are NOT testing a child on the spectrum who is truly on a whole life "gluten-free diet. Come on, a snack !...

    That would be like giving study participants a carrot a day and trying to see if they can see clearer later in the day. Why does the medical community think that we are so ignorant to think this really was a viable study. If I was Dr.Gupta, I would have been embarrassed to have my name associated with this report. I would love to know if those involved in the study protocol if any of them have a child or close family member who is on the spectrum.

    Let get real serious about the science and not PR (public relations) games. Please our children are our future, plain and simple and something is poising them on a larger scale.

    May 20, 2010 at 11:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Kim

    Sample size was too small. They weren't off the gluten and casein long enough, 4 weeks is nothing. And they only studied the effects after giving them one snack?? SURELY they are not going to generalize from this crappy study!

    May 20, 2010 at 11:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Dave S

    The children were on a GFCF diet for only four weeks to start. I have read that it can take months before gluten is out of your system completely so I don't know how I feel about this study.

    I hate that doctors are so quick to bash this diet when, as a parent of an autistic child on the GFCF diet, I have seen the results before my own eyes. I was actually hoping for more from this article. I would love to be able to offer my son regular ice cream or cake.

    May 20, 2010 at 11:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Kristen

    The "studies" on which a lot of the "therapies" suggested for autism are based on zero patients (Simpsonwood anyone?). Autistic children are NOT guinea pigs. Until an actual cause (supported by data) can be determined then parents must work out what works best for their child. Just beware of the hype. Not one single person trying to sell you on a miracle cure is interested in your child the way you are. They want to sell you something (Got a new book out yet Jenny?) Preying on desperate parents is a growth industry.

    May 20, 2010 at 12:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. LGLK

    We tried the GFCF diet for our son. He has no known allergies. It did absolutely nothing for him. He never had runny stool or hyperactivity, or any of the other things commonly reported by parents of autistic kids. What's helped tremendously is a variety of therapies.

    That said, there are too many parents reporting favorable results on the diet and it can't be ignored. This study appears to be very limited. 4 weeks is not long enough to determine the effects of a diet such as this one (we kept my son on the diet for 4-5 months). The amount of parents reporting favorable results on this diet shows otherwise. Can't possibly be accurate. Every child is different and responds differently. It didn't work for my son, but it obviously has for someone else's.

    May 20, 2010 at 12:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. autism specialist

    Dr. Gupta's write-up of the study is incomplete. Too many questions remain, such as whether they looked at what happened later to their behaviors. Nonetheless, I think these studies are invaluable. They need to continue BECAUSE one study alone cannot lead to solid conclusions. Just because some people THINK it works for their child doesn't mean #1 it isn't working because they happen to be a child with GI issues or #2 that they are right. That's why we have science. There are plenty of people who are CERTAIN that voodoo works.

    May 20, 2010 at 12:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Donna

    I can't believe such a definitive headline was drawn from such a small, limited study. Too few children, and not enough time with the gluten free diet. Irresponsible journalism. The most that should have been said in the headline should have been "may not improve". WEAK SCIENCE!

    May 20, 2010 at 12:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. PauletteB

    Jenny McCarthy is a total nut case living in a constant state of denial over her son's autism. Unfortunately, her "celebrity" can lead the uninformed, or desperate, to believe she has something of value to offer. She doesn't! Those parents who have "seen" improvement with these diets are seeing with their hearts, not their eyes.

    May 20, 2010 at 12:09 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Joel's Mom

      Paulette, that's an ugly thing to say. I'm sorry if you tried it, and it didn't work for your child. But you know nothing about my experience or my ability to view things clearly.

      September 8, 2010 at 20:18 | Report abuse |
    • Ursula

      Actually, you don't know what you're talking about. I myself have Asperger Syndrome, and was also diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome at the age of 50. Two years later I finally figured out I have Celiac Disease (my doctors have been clueless all my life).

      When I eliminated gluten, dairy, soy and other foods from my diet (by then I had a whole slew of them, figured out through an elimination diet, because that is what undiagnosed Celiac Disease will do to you), my Tourette tics improved DRAMATICALLY, I stopped having meltdowns, my depression improved, my fibromyalgia pain went away...........

      The reality is, that those diets DO work for most people on the autism spectrum. Because a lot of these people, me included are very intolerant to those 'foods'. They don't just impact the gut, but have a terrible effect on the brain as well.

      December 31, 2010 at 22:45 | Report abuse |
  24. Andrew

    It's funny that when a study has only 14 participants all of a sudden it's "not enough" but the one study that "showed" a connection between MMR and autism had fewer kids in it and was touted by all as "proof" that there was a connection. You cannot pick and choose which studies to believe in based on your preconceived notions. That's not science. I'm not saying this was an excellent study... merely pointing out the inconsitent thinking.

    May 20, 2010 at 12:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Lincoln Brigham


    The only thing the study found was that the study was incapable of finding a difference. The only conclusion this study merits is that the study was too small to find a measurable difference.

    This is a classic example of bad science. Lack of proof is not proof of lack.

    May 20, 2010 at 12:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. David

    After years and years of this diet being promoted as effective, we should all be concerned that this multi-million dollar business has been given carte blanche to abdicate THEIR responsibility to demonstrate scientifically in peer reeviewed journals that the diet ACTUALLY works. All of the angry parents posting on this site should be more appalled that proponents of the diet are focused more on making money and less on systematically studying the diet.
    Data before Dollars!

    May 20, 2010 at 12:24 | Report abuse | Reply
    • fnord

      Ummmm ... who's making money on a diet that avoids wheat-like grains, and dairy products?
      Wouldn't you say, rather, that the wheat and dairy industries are *losing* a significant amount of money when so many parents no longer serve those products to their children? (And most of the parents I've known who put the kids on a GFCF diet also at the same food as the child. Just FWIW.)

      August 25, 2013 at 22:03 | Report abuse |
  27. Galenna

    A limited study done for only 4 weeks does not prove anything. As a celiac I know it takes much longer for my digestive tract to heal from gluten than just four weeks. It took almost a year after I was diagnosed. I would believe it to be the same with anyone trying to be gluten free – you need time for your organs to heal.

    Do a much larger study with many more subjects over a year....THEN maybe I'll consider it. Until then, I'll listen to a DAN doctor about the best treatment for autism.

    May 20, 2010 at 12:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Jen

    Fourteen of anything is not statistically significant unless the entire population is 15.

    I hadn't heard about the Casein part of the diet- I will pass that on to my sister inlaw witha severely autistic son. My nephew can't function if there are glutens anywhere he can get to.

    Shame on the study reserachers. (Shame on the producer too- and watch your grammar, there are lots of errors here.)

    May 20, 2010 at 12:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Kevin

    The test as described is pointless. It assumes that the effects would be immediate and as a result of only one meal. Plus, a sample of 14 children isn't broad enough to have any merit. This article smells more like a ploy by the USDA to keep people on wheat and dairy.

    May 20, 2010 at 12:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. allison

    ridiculous! i had to eliminate gluten and dairy from my diet for other reasons, but it took 2 months before i even noticed a difference. I can eat one biscuit and have no perceptible symptoms. However, one whole day of eating wheat products left me sick for a week!

    May 20, 2010 at 12:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Krinken

    A sample size of 14 is a joke: especially with the age grouping. Autism follows a developmental path so 2½ to 5½ years old is flawed to begin with since that is where major changes occur. Furthermore 4 weeks may not be long enough for noticeable developmental changes in many children. Finally asking teachers and caretakers about the childrens behavior as a metric? Seriously this is an irresponsible article. I believe in science above anecdotal evidence but it must be good research not junk science.

    May 20, 2010 at 12:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. roxxi

    my younger brother has been on this diet for various years. and it is definitely more expensive, but we have seen much improvement in his sleeping schedule , as well as an increase in verbal sounds

    May 20, 2010 at 13:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. matt

    Interesting – a study involving 14 children is "a joke" but yet lots of the evidence purported to support an autism-vaccine link has a similar sample size. And other "evidence" of miracle diet cures comes from pooled anecdotes.

    And also interesting that we see criticisms of this study not following children for a long enough period of time when many of the autism anti-science individuals claim that vaccines changed their child's behavior "overnight."

    Having it both ways is fun, isn't it people?

    May 20, 2010 at 13:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. someone

    Sorry but i think 90% of you are quacks and crackpots. A child who doesnt behave like a cardboard dummy, or plays too many video games, or watches tv too much or has trouble paying attention in school, where they most assuredly do not want to be, is now described as part of the autism spectrum... the parents are the nuts. If you knew anything about the human body you would not say gluten takes six weeks to get out of your system. there is no gluten in your bloodstream, its a gastric substance only. And i love the people with hte oh my 3 year old wasnt talking and then after 3 years on a GFCF diet hes talking now...yeah, most of us would call that growing up. whoops. Just another way for parents to control everything about their childrens lives. Oh and to the nutjob who says her son ate a granola bar and went crazy for 4 weeks. You might want to up the dosage on your prozac, or at least get the child to the home of a sane parent. The truly unfrtunate people , the other 10% of you id say, have to suffer through all you attention seeking idiots when the have real autistic children.

    May 20, 2010 at 13:17 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Repulsed

      I wonder if there's something in your diet or meds that makes you an insensitve, judgmental jerk.

      September 9, 2010 at 08:48 | Report abuse |
  35. Bluest

    Despite the small sample size, this was an actual controlled test, unlike so many others.

    I wonder if those that seemed to be helped by the diet had some sort of allergy to those things. Autistic kids can't always communicate when something makes them feel bad, upset stomach or itchy or generally icky, they won't tell you milk makes their tummy hurt, they will just behave worse.

    My own daughter was in trouble at school for her sudden temper and outbursts, come to find she was getting in molars and it hurt, and she couldn't express that. Treated the pain, and the problems went away.

    May 20, 2010 at 13:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. Pam

    It truly helped in my autistic son's case. I asked his teacher what she thought about it before we tried it and she said not to waste our time. We tried it anyway. Five days later she came running down the hall with a handful of his other therapists and shouted, "...what ever you are doing with him, keep it up! He's doing great things! it's as if he woke up!" His teacher asked us what we did and when we told her that we started the GFCF diet, her chin hit the floor. He has more concentration skills now and is clearer in his thoughts and communication–not to mention his stools improved greatly.

    This diet may not work for every child who has autism but it is worth a try. I'm not sure that we will ever find out what causes autism but the important thing to remember is to do what you can to help your child. It will mean more in the long run.

    May 20, 2010 at 13:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. Dali

    I agree with many of the comments. I do not believe in any of the anecdotal evidence for such diets and I have never found a study showing that it works. But this kind of study is more fuel for the people who embrace those alternatives. Who can believe the conclusions of this study? Sample size of 14? 4 weeks? Behavior right after having a snack that reintroduces gluten/casein? When you have a few hundred kids that you follow for many months with no gluten/casein for half the time and with normal diets including gluten/casein for the rest of the time, then you will convince a lot of people that those conclusions hold.
    And for those that claim the diet does miracles: have you first ruled out a gluten/casein allergy or intolerance (this study did)? Try talking to people without autism that have these kind of problems. The diet does miracles for them too, except it has nothing to do with autism.

    May 20, 2010 at 13:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. John

    The biggest problem is that gluten tends to coat the intestines where all most of the vitamin and minerals are absorbed. Depending on which areas of the intestines are coated, determines which viatamin and minerals are not being absorbed, which in turn, means that you could have a variety of symptoms of health issues. Contrary to what most medical people say, there is a high percentage of people who do suffer from gluten sensitivity and just don't know it. Some are not extreme which means we can live with it while others can have very strong reactions. The medical community only recognizes the extreme case of celiac which is actually less than 10% of the gluten sensitivity community. They fail to understand how nutrition plays a part in our overall health. Ask your personal doctor how many classes in nutrition they actually had. You may be shocked to realize that they have had only a couple of classes and that it was not emphasized with any importance, much like an elective is in alot of degrees. How serious did you take a course when it is an elective and you only needed a passing grade for it to count. Gluten sensitivity is one of the most misunderstood and under valued conditions out there. Notice that even if the medical community does share much concern about it, that the food community does. People report widely how much better they feel when they cut gluten out of their diet. The wheat we eat now is now been genetically altered and is NOT the wheat that our grandparents used to eat.

    May 20, 2010 at 13:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. Jefe

    One of the biggest problems in Autism research, in my opinion, is that, we know there are many different disorders within the Autism umbrella (which is why we refer to Autism Spectrum Disorders.)

    Discussion and research tends to treat them as if they're all the same thing. While there is no known "cause" yet, it does seem that certain disorders have a very high genetic correlation, while others have no obvious genetic correlation. Most any disease is some combination of genetics (predisposition or locked-in from birth) and environment (food, stress, air quality, etc.)

    I won't speculate here as to what the causes of them all are, just want to make the point that there are so many different "varieties" of Autism, and thus, there are likely a variety of causes, and a variety of possible treatments.

    May 20, 2010 at 13:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. Q

    As an adult with a wheat gluten intolerance, I’m appalled by this study and the way it was reported. It took at least four month of being totally off wheat gluten before I even began to see a difference. I’ve been off wheat for over three years now and I can’t believe how great I feel. It’s like getting a whole new body! On the rare occasions when I have accidently ingested wheat, it takes a day or two before I have symptoms, but I can definitely tell. My thinking is so confused that I can have trouble forming sentences or driving a car. My intestines become horribly painful. It would take a lot more than this extremely limited study to convince me that these changes are all in my head. I’d also like them to explain how going off wheat stopped my intestines from bleeding on a regular basis.

    May 20, 2010 at 13:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. Amy

    Even if a gluten free diet isn't necessarily helpful, I don't see any harm in it. The parents need to do something to feel like they're helping, so even if it makes parents feel less helpless, then I think it's beneficial. Unfortunately, research based on the behavior of the particular child is relative and subjective, so this research has to be taken with a grain of salt.

    May 20, 2010 at 13:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. JayB

    @ Dr REL – your argument might have more weight if you had your facts straight. I really hope your are not really a Dr. with patients. The idea that Celiac affects 1/10 of 1% and they all live in Ireland is so 1970's. Celiac Disease affects an accepted 1 in 133 people (and some research is showing almost 1%) in North America & Europe and it appears that this is probably the case for much of the rest of the world. In Sub-Saharan Africa the incidence may be as high as 5%. (Yes that is the area of the world were we send food aid, in large part wheat, which is "toxic" to 5% of the people we are trying to help and by eating it they are put at even greater risk)


    Oh and btw, unlike this 14 patient study, there is real large scale data behind the celiac numbers. But guess what...It was years before the majority of the medical community listened to their patients and started diagnosing celiac. My mother was diagnosed after 15 years of misery because her doctor did not know what celiac was. It was thought to affect 1 in 4000 people and mostly children.

    Of those, 3.5ish million people who have celiac in North America, somewhere on the low side of 200,000 have been diagnosed.

    Whether GFCF diets work is far from clear, but headlines like "Gluten-free diets do not improve autism behavior" do a disservice to everyone. How about revising the article title to:

    STUDY: Gluten-free diets do not improve autism behavior in a small sample of people tested for a short period of time (and we didn't even mention casein because we weren't quite sure what that was but we've heard about gluten a lot lately and it seemed catchy)

    This is picked up and passed around as case closed when it is absolutely not. Many more studies are required. Maybe we'll see them.

    At least this article removes the reference I've seen in other articles about this study that claim being on a GFCF diet is harmful to the children which is utter nonsense.

    May 20, 2010 at 13:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. Heather Park

    These people clearly have never been to my house and seen how my son stopped literally bouncing off the walls when I stopped giving him wheat! 14 kids?! Really?! That's what passes for a study now?! Wow, I see us parents of children with autism are truly on our own to deal with our children and find out what works. This should not even have qualified as a news story!! Grrr! :-/

    May 20, 2010 at 14:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. Tracy

    This article is a joke. Clearly you don't understand how long it can take a child's digestive tract to heal once you stop giving the child gluten. And to expect behavioral changes that soon if you give the child gluten? I am really surprised that you would even publish an article like this. You should do a little more research before putting something like this out there.

    May 20, 2010 at 14:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. Zach

    My 4.5 year old autistic son has deinitely seen improvement from a gluten and dairy free diet. We have had him on this program for 6 months, and it takes a while to see the improvement. To my untrained eye, I think the sample size of this "study" seemed small, and the duration of study was short. If you look at the University Dr. Hyman works for, they are funded by the federal government. The US Government does not support wheat and dairy free diets, as I learned having my son go through the government "Early Steps" program. This is because the agricultural lobbyists are giving too much money to their senators for them to ignore. If you look at Dr. Hyman's association involvement, she is also part of several groups such as Autism Speaks, which do not support wheat and gluten free diets at all. A little more investigative journalism from Ms. Henry would uncover the real truth here: that the lobbyist funded medical establishment is financially incentivised to dispell the link between diet and mental disorder. Look at the VA hospital system studies of adult mental illness, and their conclusion that control of wheat and dairy in mental patient diets improves their behavior radically. Look at how the major pharmaceuticals treat depression and other mental disorders, and the meds are all basically anti-allergens. To every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Eat allergens, and the body will fight the allergens.

    May 20, 2010 at 14:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. S. Grimes

    oh the thoughts running through my mind...as a grandmother of an autistic child, when will people who don't have any knowledge of this stop commenting. If you know anything about autism you know that what works for one will not work for another and what works can change daily!!!! This diet NEVER helped Riley, but does help some.

    May 20, 2010 at 14:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. Laura R.

    Well, as usual, the wording is tweaked. No, not all cases of autism
    can be fixed by eliminating gluten. But as a person whose gluten-foods allergy (a genetic one) caused autism-like symptoms in me as a child, to the point where that was a diagnosis more than once, I know that serious long-term reactions can affect brain chemistry. And that was proven research at the time I was a child.

    May 20, 2010 at 14:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. Jessica

    First – 14 people kids? Thats all? Second – the study wasnt long term – meaning, they didnt give the kids time to "come down" from the affects of eating gluten long term, especially before they began to reintroduce it. Finally – they only studied how they acted directly before and directly after given a gluten snack? SERIOUSLY? Thats the measure of this study? These are medical professionals, that think this study made any sense? Try a study that involves an ENTIRE YEAR...and see if they've changed. This is a joke of a study, and I wouldnt be surprised to learn someone in the Wheat or Milk industry paid for this study.

    May 20, 2010 at 14:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. Megan

    As many have pointed out, the study was far too small, lacked enough time being GFCF prior to the "challenge," and the "challenge" was a joke. How about those same kids go six months GFCF, have parents, teachers, and other parties evaluate their behavior using a standard scale for autistic behaviors, and then return to a regular diet and fill out the same behavior evaluation by the same people several weeks later? It seems to me that those results might be worth considering.

    Also, to "Dr REL"- sheesh. A bit of a conspiracy theorist, are we? I'd love to see where YOUR information is coming from. Celiac disease is real and affects approximately 1 in 133 people worldwide, and is NOT caused by the effects claim, but rather an overactive autoimmune system that overreacts to gluten (the protien found in wheat, rye, and barley) and causes inflammation in the small intesting, leading to all sorts of unpleasant effects. I have Celiac disease (and so do my two AUTISTIC children), and it's no scam, no joke, and certainly not something that some conspiracy theorist has any business making claims about without offering up any sort of REAL proof.

    May 20, 2010 at 14:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. Betsy Riser

    That is a ridiculous study. I have food sensitivities to gluten and dairy. After feeling awful for years, and having conventional doctors tell me there was nothing wrong with me and trying to put me on antidepressants, out of desperation and after much Googling, I cut these things out of my diet. One and a half years later, I am like a different person, it helped me so much. The negative effects of these foods on many people (like myself) are not immediate, as with a peanut allergy, for example. They are more gradual and cumulative. The study only shows that these children do not have immediate allergic reactions to these foods, and nothing more. I would trust the parents, who really know what's going on, and have seen improved health in their autistic children after changing their diets.

    May 20, 2010 at 14:36 | Report abuse | Reply
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