Autism Patients Treated with Alternative Diets, Probiotics
A significant number of young people who have autism are following special, alternative diets and taking supplements such as probiotics and digestive enzymes as part of their treatment programs, according to a new study. The report is being presented on Sunday, May 2 at the Pediatric Academic Societies annual meeting by the Autism Speaks’ Autism Treatment Network.
Autism is part of a group of disorders called autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) that include autism (the most debilitating condition), Asperger syndrome, and pervasive development disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the prevalence of autism among 8-year-olds is about 1 in 110. Autism and other ASDs typically develop in childhood and are usually diagnosed by age three.
The Autism Speaks’ study found evaluated data from a large registry of children with ASDs and their use of complementary alternative medicine as part of their treatment regimen. They found that 201 of 1,212 children (17%) were on special diets, primarily a gluten-free, casein-free diet (53%). Children with autism were more likely to be on a special diet (19%), followed by those with PDD-NOS (14%) and Asperger’s syndrome (7%).
The researchers also discovered that children who had gastrointestinal problems, which is a common complication of autism, were more likely than those who did not GI problems to use alternative approaches, including glut-free and casein-free diets, use of digestive enzymes and probiotics, and diets free of processed sugars.
A new study published in Nutritional Neuroscience reported on a 24-month randomized, controlled trial that looked at 72 children (ages 4 years to 10 years 11 months) who had ASDs. The children were assigned to either a gluten- and casein-free diet or to no special diet. At the end of the study, the “results suggest that dietary intervention may positively affect developmental outcome for some children diagnosed with ASD.”