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What Is the Current Status of Research Concerning Use of a Gluten-Free, Casein-Free Diet for Children Diagnosed with Autism?

      Autism is often referred to as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). It is a lifelong complex disorder that impedes an individual's ability to communicate and function socially. Formerly a rare condition, the prevalence of autism has increased more than 10-fold in the past 20 years, from an estimated prevalence of approximately 5 or 6 per 10,000 children to 65 per 10,000 diagnosed with ASD (
      CDC
      Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
      ). Although there is controversy regarding whether this is an actual rise in the number of cases or a result of increased publicity and better diagnostic measures, it remains clear that autism is a disorder that produces major challenges for families and society at large (
      • Elder J.H.
      The gluten-free, casein-free diet in autism: An overview with clinical implications.
      ). To date, there is no clear etiology or known cure. Treatment usually consists of a comprehensive, intense program of educational intervention, developmental therapies, and behavioral treatment. There is evidence of widespread use by parents of complementary and alternative therapies (CAM) for children with autism (
      • Millward C.
      • Ferriter M.
      • Calver S.
      • Connell-Jones G.
      Gluten-and-casein-free diets for autistic spectrum disorder.
      ). Several different nutritional strategies have been suggested, including restriction of food allergens, probiotics, yeast-free diet, gluten- and casein-free diet (GFCF), and dietary supplements such as vitamins A, C, B-6, and B-12, and magnesium, folic acid, and n-3 fatty acids. Unfortunately, many of these interventions have little evidence-based research to support them.
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      References

        • CDC
        Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
        (February 9, 2007 Vol. 56 No. SS-1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Web site) (Accessed January 8, 2009)
        • Elder J.H.
        The gluten-free, casein-free diet in autism: An overview with clinical implications.
        Nutr Clin Pract. 2008; 23: 583-588
        • Millward C.
        • Ferriter M.
        • Calver S.
        • Connell-Jones G.
        Gluten-and-casein-free diets for autistic spectrum disorder.
        Cochrane Database of Systemic Reviews. 2008; (CD003498)
        • Goday P.
        Whey watchers and wheat watchers: The case against gluten and casein in autism.
        Nutr Clin Pract. 2008; 23: 581-582
        • Clinical Trials Registry
        ScanBrit dietary intervention in autism.
        (ClinicalTrials.gov Web site) (Accessed January 8, 2009)
        • Clinical Trials Registery
        Diet and behavior in young children with autism.
        (ClinicalTrials.gov Web site) (Accessed January 8, 2009)
        • Peregrin T.
        Registered dietitians' insights in treating autistic hildren.
        J Am Diet Assoc. 2007; 107: 727-730

      Additional Resources

      1. MedlinePlus-Autism.
      2. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke-Autism Fact Sheet.
        • The National Institute of Mental Health-Autism Spectrum Disorders
        • CDC-Autism Information Center
        • Parner E.T.
        • Schendel D.E.
        • Thorsen P.
        Autism prevalence trends over time in Denmark.
        Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2008; 162: 1150-1156