Gluten-Free Diet Has No Benefit for Children With Autism

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2015

A gluten-free, casein-free diet had no benefit for children with autism, a small study found:

Fourteen young children between three and five years old with a diagnosis of autism were put on a gluten- and casein-free diet for 30 weeks, working with a registered dietitian to make sure they were getting the necessary nutrition.

After they got used to the diet, children were “challenged” weekly for 12 weeks either with a food that contained gluten, casein, both, or a placebo. None of the researchers, parents or children knew if they were getting a real food challenge or a placebo.


Though the researchers initially wanted more children in the study, ultimately only 14 completed it because of both the difficulty of persuading families to sign up and the number of dropouts, the researchers said. Some families left because their children complained about the diet.

The scientists recorded a range of behaviors in the lab after each food challenge and asked parents to monitor others at home, including a range of autism symptoms, sleep patterns and bowel movements.

The data showed no significant change in any of the outcomes between when they were challenged with gluten or casein and when they were given a placebo.


  1. Koanic says:

    Garbage study already and I haven’t even read the paper to see what the diet actually consisted of.

  2. Grurray says:

    Fourteen kids is not much of a sample.

    There’s also gluten in soaps, shampoos, and lotions. These weren’t controlled for in this study.

    Also, one of the main suspicions about gluten is that it causes inflammation in the digestive system that leads to ‘leaky gut’. It’s thought that healthier ‘intestinal flora’ (good bacteria) alleviates the worst problems.

    The journal only has a preview available, but it mentioned that a registered dietitian carefully selected food to make sure they were receiving proper nutrition. It also implies that vitamin supplements were used to fill in any perceived gaps. My guess is by the time the ‘challenge’ started that the kids had built up a solid intestinal defense.

    The conclusion I get is that they should have not just studied gluten but also tested and controlled for overall digestive health.

    Overall, I would say this is hardly a comprehensive study and doesn’t provide much guidance.

  3. Space Nookie says:

    Basically what they tested was, if a child were already on a gluten-free casein-free diet, would there be significant changes in behavior if they consumed a tiny amount of gluten or casein. I feel like the study would have been stronger if they gave larger amounts, like a whole package of cookies or full glass of milk. Or if they had done blind before-after behavior evaluations of the test subjects and a control group.

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