Food and Behaviour Research

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Reports on dietary intervention in autistic disorders

Knivsberg, A.M., Reichelt, K.L., Nodland, M. (2001) Nutritional Neuroscience 4 (1) 25 - 37 

Web URL: this takes you to the abstract in Pub Med


Autism is a developmental disorder for which no cure currently exists. Gluten and/or casein free diet has been implemented to reduce autistic behaviour, in addition to special education, since early in the eighties. Over the last twelve years various studies on this dietary intervention have been published in addition to anecdotal, parental reports. The scientific studies include both groups of participants as well as single cases, and beneficial results are reported in all, but one study. While some studies are based on urinary peptide abnormalities, others are not. The reported results are, however, more or less identical; reduction of autistic behaviour, increased social and communicative skills, and reappearance of autistic traits after the diet has been broken.


These authors discuss reports that some people with Autism or related conditions appear to benefit from avoiding gluten (found in wheat and some other grains) and casein (found in milk and dairy products). Unfortunately, there is not yet any reliable test to identify food intolerances of this kind, so excluding the foods in question is the only way to find out if this approach may help a given individual.

In our view, gluten-free and casein-free (GF/CF) diets (or any other elimination diets) should never be undertaken without first taking professional advice. GF/GF diets involve eliminating a great many common foods, and it is very important to maintain a balanced diet that still provides all the essential nutrients. Monitoring the effects carefully is also important to ensure that this is really worthwhile.

For anyone interested in trying this approach, further information and practical advice on implementing a GF/CF diet can be found elswhere on this site. Searching on 'gluten' and/or 'casein' should lead you to these resources.