Does an Apple a Day keep the Autism Away? The Effects of a Gluten-Free, Casein Free Diet

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Hague, Chris
Volkmar, Fred
Issue Date
Scholarship Sewanee 2011 , University of the South, Sewanee, Tennessee , Undergraduate research , Autism , Gluten free diet , Casein free diet
At the heart of this matter of how to cure autism is where does autism come from? There is no known cause but many theories. Lately in the news you may have heard that the vaccine theory has been debunked but people still believe that a child’s reaction to a vaccine leads to these problems. There is the genetic theory, but all the research in this area shows that multiple genes are involved and not always the same ones in each case. Then there is the simple explanation of nutrition and vitamin deficiencies, which has lead to, many quick-fix, “magical” remedies such as Jimmy’s gluten free diet most notably and recently the gluten free/casein free (GFCF). Moreover, as popular culture becomes more weary of medication and fearful that doctors are excessively prescribing drugs that do more harm than good, more people are turning to diet based treatments like GFCF for solutions. Many case studies and testimonials, such as Jimmy’s, have shown the success of this non-traditional remedies although they have little, reliable empirical evidence to support them. Most of the studies that have been done have limited power since they usually have small sample sizes, are based on subjective measures, and do not control for confounding variables or potential placebo effects. Moreover, the studies that do use more reliable measures and procedures do not show that changes in diet have any beneficial effect on autistic behaviors. While diets such as the ketogenic diet have been shown to reduce epileptic seizures, there is little empirical evidence to support the wide claims about the GFCF diet that many parents make. Moreover, there is evidence that such restrictive diets like GFCF, especially for young children, deprive them of essential nutrients that are needed for development. Consequently, parents hoping for a simple solution to dealing with their child’s autism should look to more reliable measures than fad diets for solutions.