Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Gluten- and casein-free diet makes a meal of autism science

By Andrew Whitehouse

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

From the moment a child is diagnosed with autism, their family enters the unknown. Conference halls are lined with salespeople, letterboxes are stuffed with pamphlets, and life is transformed into a whirlwind tour of a fantastical array of therapies and potions that are positioned as the “cure all” for their child’s difficulties.

Diet modification is one of the most prominent alternative therapies. A diet free of gluten (found in wheat, rye and barley) and casein (the main protein in dairy products) attracts more attention than any other and is estimated to be given to approximately 40% of individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

In some cases, clinicians recommend diets; in others, they’re instigated by parents eager to find anything that may help their child. But there is currently little scientific evidence the gluten-free, casein-free (GFCF) diet has beneficial effects for children with autism.

The theory

The theory most commonly associated with the use of the GFCF diet relates to proposed differences in the functioning of the gut of individuals with autism.

Our bodies extract nutrition from food through the intestines, which is where small molecules cross the mucosal lining and enter our bloodstream. It is thought that some individuals with autism have a “leaky gut” – that...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.