Study Shows Gluten-free, Casein-free Diet May Help Some Children with Autism

By Sally Pickle, Delight Editorial Assistant

According to research recently done at Penn State, a gluten-free and casein-free diet may improve behavior and physiological symptoms in some children with an autism disorder (ASD).

The research is the first to use survey data from parents to document the effectiveness of a gluten-free, casein-free diet on children with ASD.

Laura Cousino Klein, associate professor of Biobehavioral health and human development and family studies and her team asked 387 parents or primary caregivers of children with ASD to complete a 90-item online survey about their children's GI symptoms, food allergy diagnoses, and suspected food sensitivities, as well as their children's degree of adherence to a gluten-free, casein-free diet.

In the surveys, parents who restricted their children’s diets found that the kids had fewer intestinal problems, better social behavior, better language, improved eye contact, engagement and longer attention spans. Parents that eliminated just one was less effective. The study appears in the journal Nutritional Neuroscience.

According to Klein, autism may be more than a neurological disease -- it may involve the GI tract and the immune system.

As reported Klein feels this gives parents a good opportunity to talk with their physicians about starting a gluten-free, casein-free diet with their children with ASD.

"Gluten and casein seem to be the most immunoreactive," Klein said. "A child's skin and blood tests for gluten and casein allergies can be negative, but the child still can have a localized immune response in the gut that can lead to behavioral and psychological symptoms. When you add that in with autism you can get an exacerbation of effects."

Through the research they also conclude that soy may cause problems for some of these kids.

Christine Pennesi, medical student at Penn State College of Medicine, said, "While more rigorous research is needed, our findings suggest that a gluten-free, casein-free diet might be beneficial for some children on the autism spectrum. It is also possible that there are other proteins, such as soy, that are problematic for these children."

4 comments (Add your own)

1. Tom G wrote:
I think this study should not quoted till more research is done on this issue. Recently more and more people are jumping into "Gluten Free" diet without fully understanding the implication and the depth of their decision.
Gluten is available in lots of food we eat so to eliminate this food when your body is built to handle it, is not necessary. To get idea on what food have gluten in it visit

Sun, August 12, 2012 @ 9:21 PM

2. Elena wrote:
Help, I've been informed and I can't become ingornat.

Sun, September 9, 2012 @ 8:57 PM

3. ozmhicpm wrote:
WCSu3o lauytwdrxpkp

Tue, September 11, 2012 @ 8:43 PM

4. Maureen Burke wrote:
My nephew was completely recovered from Autism on this diet, there is a whole lot of proof!

Wed, May 8, 2013 @ 6:29 PM

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