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

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

Abstract

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.

Keywords

Gluten-fee Casein-free diet Autism Dietary restrictions 

Notes

Acknowledgements

The authors wish to thank Kathleen Colborn for her assistance on this project with respect to data management oversight and assisting with monitoring adherence. We would also like to thank Meg Mayer-Costa, MS, dietician, for her assistance in providing counseling to the participants’ families. The authors would also like to thank all of the participating families.

Funding Source

Supported by the John F. & Nancy A. Emmerling Fund / The Pittsburgh Foundation.

Financial Disclosures

Dr. Benjamin Handen disclosed consulting fees for Forest, Bristol Myer Squibb and has research funding from Forest, Bristol Myer Squibb, Johnson and Johnson, Neuropharm, and Curemark. Dr. Cynthia Johnson reported no biomedical financial interest or potential conflicts of interest. Dr. Michelle Zimmer reported no biomedical financial interest or potential conflicts of interest. Kelley Sacco and Kylan Turner also have no financial interests or potential conflicts of interest.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Cynthia R. Johnson
    • 1
    Email author
  • 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

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