Home Healthy Nutrition Tips Risks and Benefits of Gluten-Free, Casein-Free Diets for Autism  

Risks and Benefits of Gluten-Free, Casein-Free Diets for Autism  

13 min read

What did probably the most complete double-blind research of food plan for autism find, and what are the potential downsides? When you learn in various drugs journals that there is “an awesome deal of proof that meals containing casein or gluten contribute significantly to ASD [autism spectrum disorder] and must be eradicated from the food regimen” and that “implementation of a strict casein- and gluten-free (CFGF) diet almost always leads to symptomatic improvement,” the authors are presumably speaking concerning the revealed anecdotes and case collection that declare wild success however had no control group. There have been two year-long managed trials, nevertheless, that additionally confirmed exceptional advantages, however neither might low cost placebo effects. The double-blind studies that did control for placebo results failed to seek out advantages, however they solely lasted a number of weeks.  

As I talk about in my video Pros and Cons of Gluten-Free, Casein-Free Diets for Autism, researchers then carried out the research that was supposed to interrupt the logjam: a months-long, double-blind, controlled research. Fourteen youngsters with autism have been placed on a gluten- and casein-free eating regimen for 4 to six weeks. Then, for the subsequent three months, the researchers challenged them every week with double-blind, placebo-controlled food checks, secretly giving them “foods that contained gluten only, casein only, both gluten and casein, or neither (placebo),” every week, month after month. 

Researchers analyzed what occurred to every of the 14 youngsters in phrases of their social relationships and their language expertise all through every of the challenges, which you’ll be able to see at 1:13 in my video. And the findings? Nothing. No obvious influence of the “GFCF diet” was found on behavioral disturbances or autism-related behaviors. Does that imply the case is closed? Proponents of autism diets “might regard the 4–6 week implementation phase prior to the challenges as too short for the GFCF diet to take full effect.” In different words, one might argue this was yet one more double-blind research that didn’t give the weight loss plan an extended enough time to work. Could it’s that the youngsters have been nonetheless feeling the consequences of gluten and casein they had consumed before the research started, more than a month previously, which may clarify why additional gluten or casein didn’t make them worse? It’s attainable, I assume, which is why, now and again, you’ll see systematic critiques of the sum complete of proof concluding that although some studies “evaluating gluten/casein-free diets” showed advantages, the info are “inadequate” to make conclusions both approach. In different phrases, the strength of proof is considered insufficient to endorse such diets. 

But what’s the hurt in giving it a attempt? “Given the trouble, time, and cash that the GFCF weight loss plan requires, understanding whether this investment will pay off”—that’s, whether a gluten- and casein-free weight loss plan truly works—”can be beneficial.” There are downsides. For occasion, “being on a special diet can have unintended negative social consequences when children are not able to participate conventionally in birthday celebrations and class treats or eat in restaurants or other people’s homes.” Autism may be isolating sufficient as it’s. 

The general “proof for the effectiveness of GFCF diets in youngsters with autism is weak and thus these diets cannot be usually really helpful as a remedy”—yet, mother and father proceed to provide it a attempt, figuring, “Since the drugs don’t work in terms of helping the core symptoms, why not just give the diet a try and leave no stone unturned?” I can perceive that, however there are the potential downsides, like further “stigmatization, diversion of treatment, and nutritional deficiency.” Nutritional deficiency? 

The concern is about bone health, as those with autism are at elevated danger for bone fractures. Now, decrease bone mineral density in people with autism may be resulting from a variety of elements, reminiscent of lack of vitamin D, continual use of drugs that can weaken bones, and lack of weight-bearing exercise. But, dietary restrictions can also play a task.  

Do youngsters with autism on gluten- and casein-free diets have lower calcium intake? Yes, in reality, they have nine occasions the chances of failing to satisfy advisable calcium intakes. Does this translate out to lowered bone mass? Maybe so, as those on casein-free diets appear to have less bone improvement. Now, there’s controversy over whether dairy products are the most effective source of calcium, however that is the place most youngsters are getting their calcium. So, should you take away dairy from the food plan, you must substitute it with other calcium-rich meals. As research has shown, there are tons of nondairy sources of calcium, however they solely present calcium in the event you truly eat them. 


  • Recommendations for eliminating meals containing casein or gluten to improve signs of ASD are often based mostly on revealed anecdotes and case collection without management groups.
  • In response, researchers carried out an prolonged double-blind, controlled research on youngsters recognized with ASD, putting them on a gluten- and casein-free (GFCF) food plan for four to 6 weeks, followed by three months of weekly challenges of double-blind, placebo-controlled food checks—gluten only, casein only, both gluten and casein, or neither.
  • No obvious impression of the GFCF weight loss plan was discovered on behavioral disturbances or autism-related behaviors, but critics have prompt the period of the research wasn’t long enough and many mother and father and caregivers proceed to attempt a GFCF food regimen in youngsters with autism despite the shortage of evidence of its effectiveness.
  • Downsides of a GFCF eating regimen in youngsters with autism embrace unintended damaging social consequences, corresponding to elevated isolation and further “stimatization, diversion of treatment, and nutritional deficiency.”
  • Those with ASD are at heightened danger for bone fractures, having decrease bone mineral density, which can be as a consequence of lack of vitamin D, continual use of drugs that may weaken bones, and lack of weight-bearing exercise.
  • Children with autism on a GFCF eating regimen have been discovered to have decrease calcium intake, however that could be the consequence of not changing the calcium from dairy as soon as milk and different dairy merchandise are removed from the food regimen.
  • If dairy is removed from the food plan, it have to be changed with other calcium-rich foods, resembling nondairy calcium sources.

This is the ultimate article on my six-part video collection on the position of gluten- and dairy-free diets in the remedy of autism. If you missed any of the others, see:  

 Keep abreast of all of my videos on autism here. 

 Hold on. Milk isn’t protective towards bone fractures? See Is Milk Good for Our Bones?. 

 What about calcium supplements? Check out Are Calcium Supplements Safe? and Are Calcium Supplements Effective?. 

For more on weight-reduction plan and autism, see:  

In health,

Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t but, you’ll be able to subscribe to my free videos here and watch my stay shows:

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