Journal of Developmental and Physical Disabilities

, Volume 23, Issue 3, pp 213–225

Effects of Gluten Free / Casein Free Diet in Young Children with Autism: A Pilot Study

  • Cynthia R. Johnson
  • Benjamin L. Handen
  • Michelle Zimmer
  • Kelley Sacco
  • Kylan Turner
Original Article

DOI: 10.1007/s10882-010-9217-x

Cite this article as:
Johnson, C.R., Handen, B.L., Zimmer, M. et al. J Dev Phys Disabil (2011) 23: 213. doi:10.1007/s10882-010-9217-x


With reports of the growing incidence of autism spectrum disorder ASD in the United States, a large number of families of affected children is seeking alternative or complementary forms of treatment. One of the more popular interventions has been use of elimination regimes, such as the gluten and casein free (GFCF) diet. This pilot study involved a three-month, prospective, open label, randomized, parallel groups design of a GFCF diet compared to a healthy, low sugar diet (attention control) for young children with ASD. Both treatment groups evidenced some gains across a range of variables, including measures of behavior, language, and ratings of the core features of ASD. No statistically significant differences were noted between treatment groups. While our results do not support use of a GFCF diet in ASD, it is possible that a greater period of time is required for treatment before gains can be observed. Moreover, no significant nutritional differences or side effects were observed on the GFCF diet compared to the control diet. However, adherence to the GFCF diet proved difficult based on our adherence data.


Gluten-feeCasein-free dietAutismDietary restrictions

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Cynthia R. Johnson
    • 1
  • Benjamin L. Handen
    • 2
  • Michelle Zimmer
    • 3
  • Kelley Sacco
    • 4
  • Kylan Turner
    • 5
  1. 1.Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, Autism CenterUniversity of Pittsburgh School of MedicinePittsburghUSA
  2. 2.University of Pittsburgh School of MedicinePittsburghUSA
  3. 3.University of CincinnatiCincinnatiUSA
  4. 4.Children’s Hospital of PittsburghPittsburghUSA
  5. 5.University of Pittsburgh School of EducationPittsburghUSA