What did probably the most complete double-blind examine of weight-reduction plan for autism discover, and what are the potential downsides? When you learn in different drugs journals that there is “a great deal of evidence that foods containing casein or gluten contribute significantly to ASD [autism spectrum disorder] and should be eliminated from the diet” and that “implementation of a strict casein- and gluten-free (CFGF) diet almost always leads to symptomatic improvement,” the authors are presumably speaking in regards to the revealed anecdotes and case sequence that declare wild success however had no management group. There had been two year-long managed trials, nevertheless, that additionally confirmed outstanding advantages, however neither might low cost placebo results. The double-blind research that did management for placebo results failed to seek out advantages, however they solely lasted just a few weeks.  

As I talk about in my video Pros and Cons of Gluten-Free, Casein-Free Diets for Autism, researchers then performed the examine that was supposed to interrupt the logjam: a months-long, double-blind, managed examine. Fourteen youngsters with autism had been positioned on a gluten- and casein-free weight-reduction plan for 4 to six weeks. Then, for the subsequent three months, the researchers challenged them each week with double-blind, placebo-controlled meals assessments, secretly giving them “foods that contained gluten only, casein only, both gluten and casein, or neither (placebo),” each week, month after month. 

Researchers analyzed what occurred to every of the 14 youngsters by way of their social relationships and their language abilities all through every of the challenges, which you’ll be able to see at 1:13 in my video. And the findings? Nothing. No obvious impression of the “GFCF diet” was discovered on behavioral disturbances or autism-related behaviors. Does that imply the case is closed? Proponents of autism diets “might regard the 4–6 week implementation phase prior to the challenges as too short for the GFCF diet to take full effect.” In different phrases, one might argue this was yet one more double-blind examine that didn’t give the weight-reduction plan a protracted sufficient time to work. Could it’s that the youngsters had been nonetheless feeling the consequences of gluten and casein they had consumed earlier than the examine began, greater than a month beforehand, which can clarify why additional gluten or casein didn’t make them worse? It’s potential, I assume, which is why, sometimes, you’ll see systematic evaluations of the sum complete of proof concluding that though some research “evaluating gluten/casein-free diets” confirmed advantages, the info are “inadequate” to make conclusions both manner. In different phrases, the energy of proof is taken into account inadequate to endorse such diets. 

But what’s the hurt in giving it a strive? “Given the effort, time, and money that the GFCF diet requires, knowing whether this investment will pay off”—that’s, whether or not a gluten- and casein-free weight-reduction plan really works—”can be invaluable.” There are downsides. For occasion, “being on a special diet can have unintended negative social consequences when children are not able to participate conventionally in birthday celebrations and class treats or eat in restaurants or other people’s homes.” Autism could be isolating sufficient as it’s. 

The total “evidence for the effectiveness of GFCF diets in children with autism is weak and thus these diets cannot be generally recommended as a treatment”—but, dad and mom proceed to offer it a strive, figuring, “Since the drugs don’t work in terms of helping the core symptoms, why not just give the diet a try and leave no stone unturned?” I can perceive that, however there are the potential downsides, like additional “stigmatization, diversion of treatment, and nutritional deficiency.” Nutritional deficiency? 

The concern is about bone well being, as these with autism are at elevated danger for bone fractures. Now, decrease bone mineral density in people with autism could also be resulting from a number of elements, comparable to lack of vitamin D, power use of medicines that may weaken bones, and lack of weight-bearing train. But, dietary restrictions might also play a task.  

Do youngsters with autism on gluten- and casein-free diets have decrease calcium consumption? Yes, in reality, they have 9 instances the percentages of failing to satisfy advisable calcium intakes. Does this translate out to decreased bone mass? Maybe so, as these on casein-free diets seem to have much less bone growth. Now, there’s controversy over whether or not dairy merchandise are the very best supply of calcium, however that is the place most youngsters are getting their calcium. So, for those who take away dairy from the weight-reduction plan, you must exchange it with different calcium-rich meals. As analysis has proven, there are numerous nondairy sources of calcium, however they solely present calcium for those who really eat them. 


  • Recommendations for eliminating meals containing casein or gluten to enhance signs of ASD are sometimes based mostly on revealed anecdotes and case sequence with out management teams.
  • In response, researchers performed an prolonged double-blind, managed examine on youngsters identified with ASD, inserting them on a gluten- and casein-free (GFCF) weight-reduction plan for 4 to 6 weeks, adopted by three months of weekly challenges of double-blind, placebo-controlled meals assessments—gluten solely, casein solely, each gluten and casein, or neither.
  • No obvious impression of the GFCF weight-reduction plan was discovered on behavioral disturbances or autism-related behaviors, however critics have urged the period of the examine wasn’t lengthy sufficient and lots of dad and mom and caregivers proceed to strive a GFCF weight-reduction plan in youngsters with autism regardless of the shortage of proof of its effectiveness.
  • Downsides of a GFCF weight-reduction plan in youngsters with autism embrace unintended adverse social penalties, comparable to elevated isolation and additional “stimatization, diversion of treatment, and nutritional deficiency.”
  • Those with ASD are at heightened danger for bone fractures, having decrease bone mineral density, which can be resulting from lack of vitamin D, power use of medicines that may weaken bones, and lack of weight-bearing train.
  • Children with autism on a GFCF weight-reduction plan have been discovered to have decrease calcium consumption, however which may be the consequence of not changing the calcium from dairy as soon as milk and different dairy merchandise are faraway from the weight-reduction plan.
  • If dairy is faraway from the weight-reduction plan, it should be changed with different calcium-rich meals, comparable to nondairy calcium sources.

This is the ultimate article on my six-part video sequence on the function of gluten- and dairy-free diets within the therapy of autism. If you missed any of the others, see:  

 Keep abreast of all of my movies on autism right here. 

 Hold on. Milk isn’t protecting towards bone fractures? See Is Milk Good for Our Bones?. 

 What about calcium dietary supplements? Check out Are Calcium Supplements Safe? and Are Calcium Supplements Effective?. 

For extra on weight-reduction plan and autism, see:  

In well being,

Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t but, you may subscribe to my free movies right here and watch my dwell displays: