Rochester, N.Y. — ‘Autism diets’, also known as gluten-free and casein-free diets or GFCF, are not only ineffective— they can also be harmful to children, a study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found.
According to the research, GFCF diets can lead to excessive nutrients and insufficient nutrients in children, both of which can be potentially harmful to their health.
Researchers from the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York recruited a total of 368 children on the autism spectrum, including some with Asperger’s and pervasive developmental disorder (PDD), to take part in the study. Caregivers of the children involved in the study were tasked to furnish a three-day food record for each child, which tracked all the food and beverages the child took each day, including nutritional supplements, their brand names, pictures of the food labels, as well as the recipes.
According to University of Rochester Medical Center Assistant Professor for Pediatrics, Dr. Patricia A. Stewart:
“Many families try a GFCF diet in an attempt to improve symptoms of ASD”
“While 19 percent of all Autism Speaks Autism Treatment Network (AS ATN) participants were reported to be on a GFCF diet, 12 percent of the children in the subgroup participating in this study were given a GFCF diet and were significantly more likely to use nutritional supplements (78 percent vs. 53 percent). However, the micronutrient intake of children on or off the diet was remarkably similar.”
The study found that children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) consumed the same amounts of micronutrients as the typically developing children, and that they had the same deficits in calcium, choline, vitamin D, vitamin E, and potassium. According to Dr. Stewart:
“In clinical practice, each patient needs to be individually assessed for potential nutritional deficiencies or excess.”
“Few children with ASD need most of the micronutrients they are commonly given as multivitamins, which often leads to excess intake that may place children at risk for adverse effects. When supplements are used, careful attention should be given to adequacy of vitamin D and calcium intake.”