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.

Editor's Note: Medical news is a popular but sensitive subject rooted in science. We receive many comments on this blog each day; not all are posted. Our hope is that much will be learned from the sharing of useful information and personal experiences based on the medical and health topics of the blog. We encourage you to focus your comments on those medical and health topics and we appreciate your input. Thank you for your participation.

soundoff (185 Responses)
  1. DJ

    I don't have an ASD; rather, I have sensory processing disorder. I have reduced or eliminated as much as possible gluten, casein, sugar, HFCS and red meat from my diet, and while I can't say it's improved the symptoms of my SPD, it sure does make it easier to cope when you don't have a belly ache. Sometimes you just have to forget what the "science" says and go with what works...

    May 20, 2010 at 14:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. bill

    My autistic child was on a gluten/casein free diet for several years. It made a huge improvement in his mental awareness. The change is so obvious you can see it in his face in school pictures from the year before the diet to the next year. Of course, my experience is not scientifically valid there are too many uncontrolled variables, but it seemed to work for him.

    One way we could tell was that before the diet he would want to eat only cheese sandwiches and milk. The incomplete digestion basically gave him a 'high' which he craved. We could tell by looking at his eyes, they looked much clearer after being on the diet for a while.

    BTW my son is now 17, enjoying regular high school and is not on a special diet anymore. We believe that by removing the gluten/casein from his system when he was little allowed time for his system to mature and now he handles it just fine. My personal recommendation is that parents try it, if it works continue it for several years then slowly take their child off of it and monitor the results.

    May 20, 2010 at 14:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Wowhead

    "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. "

    For those parents who say it works for their ASD kids...read the article again. Notice that it says WITHOUT celiac or allergies to milk and wheat.

    There are kids with ASD who do NOT have allergies to milk and wheat. They exist. The whole point of the study is to prove that it does NOT work for ASD kids in general.

    May 20, 2010 at 15:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Micah's Mom

    If you read the entire article through, it states that they need to do more research for those who have ASD's with GI issues. See read closely "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. See it states WITHOUT GI disease.

    Another statement that is made in this article is that "Hyman and Mandell both say more studies need to be done looking at the effects of diet and the specific subtypes of autism." Even Jenny herself says that the GFCF diet does not work with everyone.

    As a parent of a child with severe autism, I find it appalling that so many of you who commented did not read through the article in its entirety, before jumping the gun and bashing the person who wrote this article.

    These researchers know that the test was not as thorough as they would like and said they need to research this further with different subtypes. Meaning that those who regressed after their shots or from other environmental triggers and who suffer from GI issues need to be researched further. And no, my sons condition was not caused by the shots or by environmental issues, however he has problems with his GI track.

    Anyway, I thought I would point this out. Though most of you will rant on about how the story does not match up to the Great Jenny McCarthy expert! I forgot that she knows all and sees all.

    May 20, 2010 at 15:33 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Kaleb's mom

      I say shame on a lot of you people out there who are bashing Jenney McCarthy, like it or not her son does have autism and she is doing everythig in her power to get him better and along the way she is writing books and letting people know what she is doing..reading her book "Mother warriors" I was inspired to continue to fight even harder for my son. I think everyone who is impacted by autism or not should watch the movie Lorenzo's oil.. It talks about parents who had to go above and beyond the medical community to find a cure for their son, they did this by introducing certain oils into his diet and till this day boys who are affected by ALD are given Lorenzo's oil it is a very true and inspiring story

      September 9, 2010 at 12:21 | Report abuse |
  5. Doug

    Shame on you for posting this "study." 14 children? 4 weeks? One snack? Dr. Hyman should be ashamed. I'd be curious to see who funded this study.

    Truth is, everybody does better without gluten. If you don't believe me, do an experiment yourself. Completely eliminate gluten from your diet for 60 days. 100% elimination. It takes some effort to avoid all sources (a few examples - soy sauce has gluten, as do Twizzlers).

    Try it for 60 days and see how you look and feel. It'll do wonders for you, and I'm certain it does wonders for those with Autism.

    May 20, 2010 at 15:43 | Report abuse | Reply
    • JJK

      Ditto! Using only 14 participant is beyond ridiculous. These sceintists and CNN should be ashamed of themselves. Wherever you fall in the debate, this is pseudoscience and does not help come up with real answers.

      September 3, 2013 at 17:05 | Report abuse |
  6. Alice Reynolds

    I can not believe the incredible injustice the reporting of this study is to the autism community. First, 14 children? are you freaking kidding me? 1 out of 150 children is diagnose with autism every day and you studied 14? How dare CNN report this as if it has merit. I have an eighteen year old with autism and we tried everything we could to help him When he was sixteen his behavior was so bad I knew he was headed for heavy drugs or a group home. Something had to change. People and things were getting hurt. I saw Jenny McCarthy on Oprah and thought it couldnt hurt to try the diet and in two months, my son was a different person. He is not on any drugs today and doing better and better. We keep him on a strict diet free of gluten, casein, soy, corn and sugar. CNN needs to report the successes that thousands of famlies have achieved with dietary changes. Shame on you Dr. Gupta for letting your name be part of this. Discrediting something that could potentially save a family from destruction. I am very careful that we supplement with the proper vitamins to offset anything he might miss from not getting crap and I feel like any parent brave enough to do this tries their best to do the same.

    May 20, 2010 at 15:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Nancy

    I normally really like what Dr. Gupta has to say, but I have to disagree here. Try telling this to the myriad of parents who see major improvements in their children who are on this diet. Of course, these are the same "experts" who swear that there is no link whatsoever between vaccines and autism. Sorry, but I'll take the word of parents vs. "experts" as to what treatments have helped their children!

    May 20, 2010 at 15:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. James

    I love the mental acrobatics people will perform to justify their devotion to unproven cures for autism. One poster says her son's eyes dilated and his behavior spiked after getting a gluten snack one afternoon. Others say it takes 6 months to detect an effect. So what is it? And why is our only proof about gluten based on anecdotal evidence and shady doctors?

    If you notice an effect from the elimination of gluten products, you might ask yourself what factor caused the change. Maybe it's actually that you are eating less sugar. Maybe it's that you're paying more attention to your behavior, or your diet. Maybe you're just seeing what you want to see. People need to give scientific reasoning a chance. It's accomplished a lot.

    May 20, 2010 at 16:05 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Kaleb's mom

      how about this for you James... there are people with cancer who get chemo.. of these people some are fully cured and cancer free for the rest of their lives.. some are fine for awhile but then the cancer comes back and for some it doesnt work at all and they die.. and though chemo does not work all the time people are all for it why? because the doctor told you this is what works, If someone got chemo and their cancer still defeated them would you say chemo doesnt work?? NO, so is is safe to day that some children will react faster to gluten than others will? YES, is it safe to say that just because one person says one thing and someone else says another they may both be right? YES

      September 9, 2010 at 12:34 | Report abuse |
  9. MR

    Dr Del-
    Please be advised that all neurons migrate during development...some travel from the vomeronasal organ to the hypothalamus which is a tremendous distance...and they continue to move throughout development. So your blanket theory that ultrasounds cause autism/ADHD due to migratory neurons is misinformed at best. If the migration is altered by ultrasound, then you have supporting evidence for your theory; but remember correlation does not mean causation. Shame on you if you really are a doctor!

    May 20, 2010 at 16:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Alice Reynolds

    This article mentions cost. You mean if it costs too much its not worth saving your child from a lifelong disability. If it means giving up the new car, your child will need to try to cope with being in a fog their entire lives. If it means going into debt, its still not worth saving your child from a life of drugs to keep his behavior under control or being put in a group home in an institution for the rest of his life? Are you really saying people should consided the cost verses improving your childs potential for a better life? You can try the diet for six months and know whether it has made an improvment without breaking the bank or giving up the new car even. We have chosen to stay with the diet and yes its expensive to stay on it for years but we have a child free of drugs and his improvement tells us its worth it. We did give up the new car, the rented movies, the new flat screen TV. I chose life over those material things.

    May 20, 2010 at 16:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Shawn

    I have a wonderful autistic daughter. We added the GFCF diet to things that we had already put into place, such as working with teachers, paras, & adjusting our own parenting. In a short time, Avery showed great signs of improvement in her communication skills, even putting together complete coherent sentences for the first time in her life. This was noticed by others who did not know we were trying the diet. I do not want to say 100% conclusively that the diet was responsible, but it seems like a heck of a coincidence. The theory (and it is an unproven theory) is that it takes 6-12 months for the "gut" to heal, so a 4 week study does not discount this possibility. We are reintroducing her to gluten and dairy, and so far, so good. While I feel that this study has tremendous shortcomings, and does need follow up studies and review (as stated in the article), at least studies are being done, and hopefully, eventually, some helpful discoveries will be made. In the meantime, parents of autistic children need to remember that there is no one miracle cure, and time, effort, patience, and love are most necessary to help a child with autism.

    May 20, 2010 at 16:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. margaret richardson

    This study was too small and too short to be valid. If you understand the idea of a "leaky gut" just taking our wheat and gluten for a short period of time and them reintroducing it and watching for a change is ludicrous. To repair a leaky gut and the neurological problems if can cause takes a minimum of a year (IMHO). I bet the wheat and or dairy council funded this study.

    May 20, 2010 at 16:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. margaret richardson

    Oh, you also have to actively adopt a diet what repairs the leaky gut as well. GAPS has worked for a friend's son who has autism. He autistic behaviors are much improved on the diet. Sample size of one, but important to that family!

    May 20, 2010 at 16:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. rebecca- Illinois

    I have a gluten intolerance myself and I have stayed off of gluten products for 15 years. I had this as a child also and did not know it.
    But because I have stayed off of gluten, there is a world of difference.
    I do not have autism though, but if you have a gluten intolerance/
    celiac disease it helps to stay off of it. But how can there be an accurate
    testing with only 14 children? Every child's system is different.

    May 20, 2010 at 16:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Autism Mom

    For all the naysayers and mom's with the runny poop in their kids diapers... did you ever have your kids tested for celiac disease or related allergies???

    Yes, this was a small study but it was a controlled study with kids who did not have those allergies.

    Gluten is not the cause for your kid's autism... maybe if you redirected your time and resources into proven therapies for autistic children, you would see improvements in their behavior that last! ABA and TEACCH work, but not without parental support at home.

    May 20, 2010 at 16:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Jimi Kirkman

    This study is bogus to say the least! My son, who has been on this diet for 4 yrs now, has had tremenous improvements. Given anything that contains casien or wheat in it and his left eye immediately dialates and stays dialated for days. His grades drop, his behavior plummets, he becomes a zombie directly afterward.

    Try finding children who have been on this diet for years, mark their behavior while on this diet. Mark their intelligence level when their food is monitored closely. Then give them a slice of wheat bread with cheese and study their behavior, their pupils, their grades. Watch what happens to them. Heck, give them something that has a single trace of gluten!

    May 20, 2010 at 16:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Nikki

    In truth I cannot say a gluten-free diet has helped my son's autistic behavior. But in all truth I can say reducing the gluten he consumes effects his hyperactivity. When he is allowed to eat unlimited gluten his behavior is spastic. The kid literally runs and bounces off the wall. And if he sits, you can tell his insides are shaking. Reducing gluten (and other food allergens) from his diet, as well as incorporating a regimen of oral chelation, has changed the quality of our family life. And I don't think the effects of the diet is limited to kiddos with autism; I believe those who deal with ADHD could greatly benefit. In any case, like most folks who commented here, I don't put much faith in autism studies. Kiddos on the spectrum are as unique as snowflakes; so any size group of kids tested won't be a true representation of the autism population.

    May 20, 2010 at 17:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. writteninkursive

    Another BS health article from CNN. They're so mainstream it makes me vomit. Anything aside from what the FDA, APA, CDC spews will always be slanted in here.

    Gluten-free diets CERTAINLY do help some autistic kids. I suppose chelation and eliminating dairy does nothing either then, right? Well, tell that to my daughter.

    May 20, 2010 at 17:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Alice Reynolds

    Do you believe every study just because it has the name of a doctor behind it? The "diet" has been implemented for over 40 years. Started by Bernard Rimland for his son. Go the ARI website and read HIS study of how the diet has affected thousands of people. How can you deny the reports of thousands verses 14.

    May 20, 2010 at 17:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Cathy

    I, too have a son who was diagnosed at age 3. I did behavior therapy intervention without diet change for the first 6 months. The big change in his behavior came when I put him on this diet. It was REMARKABLE. I was a nonbeliever until I experienced it first hand. I don't care what the study says. When he ever went off-diet we always heard from the school the next day saying he was acting out (we never got these calls otherwise). My son is now 16 and a straight A student in a college prep school. I would do everything with his diet all over again today regardless of what the "experts" say. We, the parents, are the TRUE experts!!!

    May 20, 2010 at 17:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Cathy

    To "Autistic Mom" – did you really speak like that to these other parents who left their own comments about their OWN personal experiences? I did do ABA and YES I did get my son tested for allergies (he had none!) ABA alone would not have gotten my son to the place he is today. It was therapy PLUS addressing his physical needs as well = which for him were sensitivities to gluten and caseine. Please do not talk down to others just because you had a different experience than ours. Autism is a spectrum disorder which is self-explanatory. It affects different people DIFFERENTLY.

    May 20, 2010 at 18:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Dr. Lyla Prather

    Dr. Gupta and CNN, I am appalled you would allow such weak data to be posted under your headline. A study of 14, without reproducibility, and without peer review! Unacceptable for a 1st year medical student, much less from a respected medical correspondent. People look to you for answers they can count on. Today, your choice to post this short-sighted study may have deterred famililes from trying something that might have helped them and their children, and removed a glimmer of hope that they might actually be able to affect even the smallest (yet for them, still significant) change in their childs' lives.

    May 20, 2010 at 18:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Wowhead

    I know of a Mom who put her autistic child on GFCF diet for 1 year. He did lose weight and was on the very low end of the weight average for his age (5 yrs old). Out of concern for hishealth, she re-introduced small quantities of casein and gluten into his diet. Within a few days, teachers and therapists who did not know he was on the diet said he had a BIG improvement in behaviors.

    May 20, 2010 at 18:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Julie K

    Link to study:


    May 20, 2010 at 18:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Dinaer

    Wow, all of these people with no medical background who feel like they can criticize a trained researcher at a medical institute.

    This is the problem with autism debates. The people who get all their information from Jenny McCarthy and unmoderated web sites think that they actually have a clue, while the medical professionals that REPEATEDLY debunk their supposed treatments are vilified as if they are incompetent.

    If these parents really had the best interests of their kids in mind they would follow the advise of medical professionals. You know, the ones that have used their research to eliminate polio, smallpox, and most of the cases of measles and other illnesses. The ones who have increased life expectancy by decades over the past century. Yeah, those guys.

    May 20, 2010 at 18:25 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Kaleb's mom

      WOW to you Dinaer you actually feel good about what you said right, people like you just leave me shaking my head, so your basically saying that if your not a doctor then your opinion does not count right because Dr.'s are NEVER wrong.. yeah right, tell that to the thousands of people who have been misdiagnosed for something tell that to the thousands of parents who tell their Dr. that there is something wrong with their child for the Dr. to just ignore them and years later their child is diagnosed with something wasting precious time.. so Dr.'s are gods now you go ahead and believe that, God cannot be bought and sold Dr.'s can be

      September 9, 2010 at 12:49 | Report abuse |
  26. Mom2Aspie

    As the parent of a child on the Autism Spectrum, we have tried a number of different approaches in our search for a way to help our son. He's very high functioning (Asperger's), so he is smart enough to understand that he doesn't "fit" but he can't understand why – it's heartbreaking as a parent to watch him struggle in social settings and be hurt time and time again.

    We've tried eliminating gluten, casein, on their own and together (as well as artificial flavors, dyes, etc – we've tried it all!). This was a major adjustment for our family of pasta and cheese lovers! We told his teachers we were trying something new, but not what it was and asked them to track any changes they saw in behavior, attentiveness, and anything else they saw. We packed his lunches and monitored what he ate closely. Since he was in middle school at the time, we also talked with him about it and asked him to tell us if he felt different – more in control, whatever. I'd been told that it would take several months for the effects of gluten and casein to clear his system, so we gave it a little over six months of absolute devotion. There was absolutely no change, except that our son felt "weird" about having to watch absolutely everything he ate or drank...although he really loved the soy milk! The most telling part was when we went back to our regular diet without telling the school...and no one notice any change.

    All of that said, however, we have found that it is ESSENTIAL to give our son a balanced diet at all times. He is much more susceptible to the effects of a skipped meal, too much sugar, not enough protein, etc. As out of it and "brain-dead" as we feel when we don't eat right, he feels it magnified by a factor of ten at least. The most effective diet/lifestyle modification we've made is making sure he gets at LEAST 9-10 hours of sleep (he's 15 now), and that he eats three meals and three snacks with a good balance of protein and carbs in all of them.

    May 20, 2010 at 18:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. amy

    I am against this artical....While it is true...what works for one child may not work with others. ...I only can speak for our house. My son who has autism is on this diet and it has helped his behaviors BIG TIME!
    Who ever wrote this artical is welcome to come live in my house and see for his or herself if we were to take him off this diet. I know exactly what he does when he gets a hold of foods that he should not have.
    NO PICNIC..thats for sure.

    May 20, 2010 at 19:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Mindy

    I was interested to read this study with an open mind – I find studies usually at least somewhat helpful. However, I have two real issues with this study:

    1) Only involved 14 kids, is that really a significant sample size?

    2) I have Celiac Disease (gluten intolerance) and for many people the symptoms show up over time, it is an intolerance not an immediate reaction like an allergy. Some with Celiac Disease get stomach problems right away, but the other symptoms (problems with focus, skin issues, fatigue, etc.) show up over time because the exposure damages your small intensine and decreases vitamin and mineral absorption over time. It does not happen after eating one item.

    This study needs to be done with a larger group of kids and over a longer length of time.

    May 20, 2010 at 19:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Sarah

    Not only was this sample size far too small, the challenge of a "snack," the general, un-quantified analysis by teachers and therapists and the duration of the experiment being far too short, the fact that these children were not in a hospital or other facility where their food intake was constantly monitored immediately derails the project. There are a multitude of ways children can be exposed to gluten and casein, and any scientific study would not rely on the dozens of people in a school-aged child's environment (including their peers) to monitor food intake.

    This many autistic children and still we have studies like this one being touted on CNN as proof that once again, parents of autistic children are wrong. This study is yet another case of two steps forward, one step back.

    As a parent of an autistic child, I am calling for research into what might be causing autism, or even what might HELP parents of autistic children on a daily basis, not research into once again trying to prove parents wrong. Why are we not hearing about *any* progress or even the existence of such studies? Those are the reports that I'm interested in.

    Shame on CNN and USA Today for touting this as fact and not bothering to examine and critique the study.

    May 20, 2010 at 19:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Tom

    My son was one of the 14. I agree this is a small number but after going thru the study I am 100% confident that MY SON is not adversely affected by gluten or cassein. Does that mean all ASD kids are not affected? NO and if you read the actual study release you will see that no one makes that claim. Fortunately the study was better run than the article was written. It was about 9 months long. "challenges " were started after boths were removed and the diet had stabilized and continued thru the study. And yes they did track the children as they were reintroduced. My son was tracked for months after it was over. He was started back on dairy, monitored and when that had no effect started eating wheat products again. I understand this is an emotional thing, but you folks should watch who you bash. This is science, it was well run and studies like these are the way forward.

    May 20, 2010 at 20:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. lindsay

    the sample size & the duration of the study are both too small to make conclusions..

    May 20, 2010 at 21:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Mini

    IT WORKS!!!!! Okay sorry to rain-down on that study. My daughter is 9 years old. She has autism. Being the biggest skeptic in the world, I bought the Jenny McCarthy book and read it. A lot of that stuff made sense. My daughter had very few words. I started her on a gluten-free Casein diet cold turkey last summer. When school started up again her teacher (the same teacher she had) noticed an improvement in her. She was more focused. Well her brother noticed an improvement in Emily being more focused; more in tune with us. He would tell me "mom that diet is really working" My husband who always never believe anything has finally stood to the plate and told me this diet is working. I told him this week "so if someone asked if the gluten free/casein free diet worked for your daughter what would you tell them" ? and he said "that it works". What makes sense about what morphine does to somebody – zonks them out in a daze right??? well gluten and the gluteomorphines??? This doesn't happen overnight. It could take two weeks or two months. My daughter has been using more language, putting more words together. She is trying to sing songs on her own. Some words sound soo good and some words are not as audible. I felt I wanted to do something for my daughter and this was the best thing I have ever done for her. Sure I felt bad about it in the beginning because she was so use to eating pizza and sooo much wheat products and she was a milk baby meaning she had to have her casein milk plenty times a day, but I have to say if you decide to do this for your child... do it cold turkey – go out and buy the basics. Sure it is going to be a little expensive, but you begin stocking up on stuff. Look on online to see what contains gluten and casein, read labels. For bread I highly recommend Udi's bread; you can buy it onlne or at wholesale foods. To me it takes soo much like regular white wheat bread. They are not frozen there. My daughter loves this bread. It does'nt taste like the other rice bread that does not taste good. My daughter took a huge liking to Rice milk. It is white like regular milk. French Meadows makes a fantastic brownie. I have found everything for my daughter to be able to eat. The only thing I have yet to find is a good tortilla. I buy the Vegan gourmet dairy free cheese. This cheese has soy in it, but I figured I would just let her have foods with soy, when it comes to a cheese that she enjoys to eat. But guys I have to tell you try it for your child, do it for a summer and see if you notice something in their focus, that they become more in tuned to you. Work with them also at home... Be consistent with the gluten free and casein free diet and make sure that they are not able to have access to the foods. I have a plastic lock on my refrigerator and the pantry has a lock on it. My daughter takes her lunch to school; I make it. She takes her juice, her thermos of rice milk, applesauce, meat, vegetable and for breakfast she eats at home so it is much easier for us. I am not a great writer, as I am always sloppy in writing, and this is a rush job, but that study that they did seems a little bit one-sided. A good study is one as the one I have with my daughter. I write down all the words she says and the progress since last summer... guys for my autistic daughter the gluten free/casein free has helped her, that study has nothing on my daughter. Another bit of info, get them a laptop and let them be able to go online to look up stuff that they want with the desire, they will learn. My daughter gets our remote to the TV and knows how to record her shows so that when she gets home from school they are there for her. She is an exellent speller and types words on google and finds what she wants. It's just amazing.. But I honestly feel that for autistic children, you need the one on one, the gluten free, casein free diet, technology such as lap tops Tvs, get their minds involved in gadgets. I will be buying my daughter an I-phone soon. Also constipation???? I have my daughter have BM's every day now with Miralax. Read the book guys where it talks about this... This is another factor that I feel has helped my daughter. I give my daughter the vitamins and mineral, the fish oil and the probiotics from the doctor in that book. Yes the ABA if I could afford it would do, but I don't have the money for that. I work at home with my daughter. Yes parents need to get involved with children and work with them at home. I am just trying to give the tools to my daughter to help her reach her full potential.

    Casein free/gluten free diet, fish oil, vitamins and minerals, miralax for constipation, have daily bowel movements, lap top, technology. All I can say is that it has helped my daughter. All children are different, but it just makes so much sense to me...

    May 20, 2010 at 21:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Mini

    oh and about the eating the snack and then watching for behavior??? what a joke???? It takes time for the gluten and casein to be eliminated from the body... so you are not going to see improvements or results right away.

    May 20, 2010 at 22:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. SusieC

    Amen, Autism Mom. Wish there were more like you instead of those looking for a "magic pill".

    May 20, 2010 at 22:06 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Kaleb's mom

      just because parents are looking into biomedical treatments and not just the Speech therapy, occupational terapy and ABA does not in any way mean we are looking for a magic pill! you people ar so offensive you really think that after running around for the whole day doing therapy any parent really wants to have to spend all that money and time cooking gluten free casein free food!! oh yeah I just love having to buy $7.00 pure maple syrup for his pancakes instead of the $3.29 aunt jemima because its soo much darn fun! get real I wish he could eat all that food the other kids eat and I didnt have to worry about it but the fact is he acts different when he ingest those foods.. so think about what you say there is no "magic pill" just A LOT of hard work that comes with these diets

      September 9, 2010 at 13:09 | Report abuse |
  35. Nancy in Dallas

    Either the reporting on the study specifics is not adequate or the study itself is flawed, but observing a child's behavior after "a carefully measured snack" certainly wouldn't be sufficient. It would seem you would need to continue certain kids on the gluten free diet, and give the other kids gluten products over another four week period and view their behavior during that time. Then those that were on gluten should go off gluten and those off gluten should go back on gluten for 4 weeks while continuing to observe the behavior of all the kids.

    And a pool of 14 kids? Not a vary convincing study.

    May 20, 2010 at 22:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. Jenna Smith

    What an atrocious study! Sample size miniscule, and methodology a joke. My PhD scientist husband, several MDs in my family (one is a surgeon specializing in GI disorders) and I (JD) all saw tremendous improvement in my autistic son with this diet. I include all these credentials not to boast, but to show you that incredibly well educated people (who were skeptical and not inclined to want to believe in the benefits of the diet as it is expensive and restrictive) have found great success with the diet. I love how the media tries to make this into a celebrity/internet driven fad, when in fact it is supported by evidence that is quite compelling, at least for a subset of our population. If you have a child with autism and accompanying GI symptomology, I would encourage you to give the diet a try.

    May 20, 2010 at 23:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. Andrea T.

    Again it is not for everybody. Children should be tested for true allergies first to rule out any significant problems. My son is allergic to wheat and milk (among many foods) so this GFCF diet works for him.

    May 20, 2010 at 23:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. Rebecca

    Well, my own experience with my child on the autism spectrum begs to differ...We saw improvements in physical health and behavior when we removed gluten from my child's diet. Our pediatric allergist and pediatric gastroenterologist didn't find any signs of allergies or Celiac prior to our switch to gluten-free living, but we have records to show that our child gained 3 pounds in the first 2 months, after over 2 years of no weight gain at all. In addition, my child's diet went from fewer than 15 foods that she would eat under protest, in tiny quantities, to more than 45 that she truly enjoys and eats willingly, she started to hug family members for the first time in 5 years of life, and more...I don't really mind what this study says, I'm going with what I see before me – A thriving, much happier and more connected child.

    May 20, 2010 at 23:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. Niki

    I'm in in the minority here, but I actually think this is a good first step! Of course 14 isn't statistically signifcant, but it is start. I am also a parent of a child with autism and I have not seen a SINGLE study on this diet being beneficial in healing/curing autism. I only ever hear from the parents who say it works - but of course they are biased because they really want it to work. Also, because of how the disease of autism works, you can never really know if it is the diet or the countless other therapies the children are getting that are making the difference. I am very interested in seeing other studies that will prove to me it is worth the time, money and additional stress on other family members to be on this diet.

    May 20, 2010 at 23:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. IWR


    I want to compliment & say thank you for your very insightful, compassionate, accurate & factual comment. Having been
    diagnosed w/ Celiac Disease in my mid 30's, & 2 yrs since,
    it's such a comfort knowing there are people out there that truly
    understand and can separate fact from fiction. And can calm
    fears that individuals like Dr. REL seem so happy w/spreading.
    I sincerely hope that individual is not a MD, professor, or scientist.
    He probably just plays one on t.v. since his thinking is so out there.

    May 21, 2010 at 00:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. Jimmy

    This study removed the glutein and casein from the diets for 4 weeks which is longer than most studies. However, it can take up to 6 months to see the positive effects of putting an autistic child on this diet.

    For our son it took about 3 to 4 months and the change was gradual. He has been tested and is not celiac but he does have a behavioural reaction to glutein when put back in his diet. The school teachers have noticed it and obviously we at home have noticed it. Even my son, who is 12 years old, can recognize the difference No, he is not a mild case but sits around the middle of the spectrum, compared to the various autistic children we have interacted with. My wife has worked miracles with this boy to overcome his challenges and he now recognizes when he is not functioning well.

    While this may not work for all autistic children it has worked for our son. Besides, by having a more controlled and careful diet our whole family is much more healthy. I love my junk food and would never claim to be a granola or over the top but our diet has definately strengthened our immune system and my son's condition has improved.

    I would love to have these researchers come to my house and prove us wrong. We have been doing the diet for 3 years now and something about it has really helped.

    May 21, 2010 at 01:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. Selene Cooper

    I am a parent with a child who has Asperger's Syndrome and is on the Spectrum and my son is living proof that the GF/CF Diet works along with the Vitamins and Supplements he needs. He is more focused and calm. It is very challanging to follow this Diet perfectly(we don't 100%) but we have replaced many of the foods that he is most allergic to with the help of a Food Allergy Panel that you can request from your childs Pediatrician. You do not have to be rich to pick foods on this Diet. Once you find out what foods your child is really allergic to you can try little by little to eliminate and replace with foods that he or she is not allergic to. This little piker ignorant study of 14 children, 4 weeks and one snack proves absolutely nothing and should of never been put in an article form with such a strong title like the GF/CF Diet doesn't work at all when in fact it does for many Parents with Children on the Autism Spectrum. The best thing to do is ignore this negative article about this piker study that tries to dispel the GF/CF Diet. It seems not to recognize what parents have to go through to help improve their children on the Autism Spectrum with confirming results!

    May 21, 2010 at 01:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. anonymous

    The pathetic thing isn't the size of this study. It's the lunatic pseudo "doctors" and "scientists" that promote this gluten and casein free diet nonsense. They prey on the fragile minds of grief-stricken parents of autistic children (like most of you who left comments here). And by the way, all of your anecdotes aren't any more scientific. Stop drinking the gluten-free Kool-Aid people!

    We need more (and better) studies than this one to rid "science" of this faith healing nonsense like this and other BS such as the claims that eliminating vaccinations and doing heavy metal culation somehow alleviates symptoms of autism. You parents have my sympathy. Not because of your children, but because of the people that prey upon you...

    May 21, 2010 at 02:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. Jack

    I'm guessing here, I'll stick my neck out.
    People with autism aren't looking for relief.
    It's those who love, and care for the Autistic that need help.
    An entire industry is now in place to ultimately, be self served.
    This Autism story is skewed. This latest rash of people afflicted with autism will solved. Not by science, but by change.

    May 21, 2010 at 02:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. jsa_ceduna

    As many have said this study doesn't meet the standards to really mean anything. If for example the study had shown that the GFCF diet did make a difference, all the conventional medical "authorities" would clamor that this is too small of a sample size to prove anything. I see many kids who are all over the spectrum. Different things work for different kids. Some parents told me their kids speech and eye contact improved 2 weeks after taking dairy and or gluten out of the diet, I haev had others say they followed it near perfectly for 6 months and could not see any difference.

    I agree with many other who have said, TOO FEW KIDS IN THE STUDY AND TOO LITTLE TIME TO FOLLOW THEM.

    May 21, 2010 at 02:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. another autism mom

    I saw no improvement in our son going gfcf (no trace/strict) and we stuck with it for over a year for various reasons. He added it back without any negative changes either. But I think there is research basis (i.e. genes controlling glutamate receptors in brain being implicated in some autism) to think gluten (and glutamates in casein) might affect some kids. This study was not of long enough duration to determine anything conclusively about diet changes and that's too bad. I wish they had done it better.

    May 21, 2010 at 04:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. FedUpWithResearchStudies

    Although I haven't read the study, I see a few flaws based upon the information in this article. First, the study size is way small...especially when you consider that one in every 150 children is diagnosed with some form of autism. I think it irresponsible of the researchers to use only 14. Secondly, most parents who support the use of a GF/CF diet also believe their children were harmed during immunization. This often translates into a small tearing or opening in the digestive system wherein the gluten and caseins escape into the blood stream; thus causing the behavioral issues often associated with autism. That said, did the researchers ask or intentionally select children where immunization harm was a suspected cause? I am not interested in stirring the immunization debate...that is not the point of my post. Rather, I wanted to show how it is possible that the study did not do its homework before establishing their purpose and method. For me, it is discouraging to learn that a group of scientists may have generalized a theory that in and of itself is more involved and complex than simply changing a diet. There is more to it than that. There are causative factors that can demonstrate success; and most parents in the autism community will concede that the GF/CF diet doesn't work for all. But it works for many; and when studies like this are delivered and published, they do more harm than good – particularly if the process behind the result is completed haphazardly.

    May 21, 2010 at 08:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. Debby

    Oh, I think this is an awesome study! In fact, I read one just like it, where 14 people didn't smoke for a month, then they all smoked a cigarette. Not a single one got cancer! That's good enough for me–I've decided to start smoking!

    May 21, 2010 at 08:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. geoffrey

    I find this study flawed.Sampling 14 kids is not enough and relying on teachers to give feedback is laughable.GF and CF diets for autistic kids is KEY in their improved behavior.As a parent who has an autistic child I stongly believe in this diets.

    May 21, 2010 at 09:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. Jennifer

    My autistic son before putting him on a GFCF diet:

    And two months after being completely GFCF:

    Judge the change for yourself. He had chronic, horrendous diarrhea from the age of 1. His dietary changes have finally healed that, in addition to the truly astounding behavioral and cognitive changes.

    It's true, if you try your very hardest to pick out 14 autistic children WITHOUT gastrointestinal problems (and there are certainly some,) then yes, don't be surprised if dietary changes don't help them. The cause of their autism is something else. But if you take the average autistic child, who statistically speaking probably DOES have gastrointestinal problems–which can include chronic constipation, less dramatic but no less important than diarrhea–then you will absolutely see the changes we are talking about.

    May 21, 2010 at 10:07 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Joel's Mom

      Amen, sister 🙂

      September 8, 2010 at 20:37 | Report abuse |
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