A gluten-free and casein-free diet may not be as beneficial for children with autism some believe, according to a new study published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. According to a Forbes report this month, the study is the first randomized, well-controlled study of gluten-free diets in children with autism.
The study, led by researchers from the University of Warsaw in Poland, involved 66 children between 3 and 5 years old, half of whom were assigned at random to a gluten free diet. The other children received a normal diet, with one meal a day containing gluten, for six months. After evaluating both groups, the researchers found there were no differences in gastrointestinal symptoms in either.
According to the study, “There is no evidence either against or in favor of gluten avoidance for managing symptoms of ASD in children."
Steven Salzberg, the author of the Forbes report and Professor of Biomedical Engineering, Computer Science, and Biostatistics at Johns Hopkins University, noted that the evidence for the benefits of a gluten-free diet for children with autism is sketchy at best.
“There has been some weakly supportive evidence for [the benefits of gluten-free diets], such as this 2012 report from Penn State, but that study was based entirely on interviews with parents,” Salzberg writes. “Interviews are notoriously unreliable for scientific data collection.”
Salzberg believes the new study “should put to rest all of the claims that a gluten-free diet can somehow improve the symptoms of autism. It doesn't provide an easy answer for parents, and the medical community still needs to do much more work to find better treatments. But let's hope that parents get the message: don't feed your autistic child a restricted diet.”