Autism and a Gluten Free Diet

This is not directly related to celiac, however, it is important for people to be aware of a recently published study regarding a gluten free diet and autism.

Gluten free diets have been all the rage for a long time. Those of us in the celiac community both love and hate the gluten free fad dieters. We love them because they have brought awareness to the gluten free diet and with it an explosion of gluten free products. On the other hand, we hate them because they also brought a lot of misunderstanding and misinformation about celiac and a gluten free diet along for the ride.

Many time people say they cure whatever ailment they have with a gluten free diet. There are some studies that do directly link an issue with gluten to certain health conditions. There is a lot of supposition that a gluten free diet will help a lot more. Today we are going to talk about autism and a gluten free diet.

A recently publish study was of 66 children with autism spectrum disorder. They all had normal IQ. The participant had to be on a gluten free diet for at least 8 weeks prior to the beginning of the study. Half of the children continued on their gluten free diet and the other half at a gluten containing meal at least once a day for 6 months. The researchers found no differences between the two groups in autistic symptoms, maladaptive behaviors, or intellectual abilities after their participation. So, they concluded that a gluten free diet has no effect on autism spectrum disorders.

People with celiac disease or a wheat allergy were not allowed to participate in the study. Someone with celiac or a wheat allergy would have potentially skewed the results. If you give someone with celiac disease gluten once a day for six months, their behavior will deteriorate. I don’t have autism, but my behavior would deteriorate significantly I can promise.

Some argue gluten free diets can help with a variety of illnesses. Currently, the science only knows that gluten free diets help in celiac disease and dermatitis herpitiformis. Other diseases may be helped or it may be the placebo effect in these other instances. We just don’t know for sure at this point. As more research is done, we will learn more and more about how a gluten free diet can affect someone’s health beyond celiac disease.

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