The extent to which one should change the diet in autism is a controversial topic, and there is no international agreement on where this is recommended.

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According to (a Norwegian trusted website on health topics), a lot of research has been done, especially in Norway, on the importance of diet in autism (Reichelt and co-workers). Observations have suggested that gluten and casein from cow's milk may be important for the development of autism. Gluten is found in our most common grains of wheat, rye, barley and oats, while casein is a milk protein.


Theory that autism comes from intestinal problems

A theory has been developed that the proteins found in bread and milk, among other things, are central to the development of autism. According to the theory, gluten and casein are incompletely broken down in the intestine.

As a result, residues of these proteins (peptides) enter the bloodstream and can affect the brain. Such peptides can be detected in the urine of some autistic children.

Some researchers believe that these peptides together with so-called serotonin uptake-stimulating factors are crucial for the development of autism. The theory is that removing these substances from the diet can avoid harmful effects in the brain, thus reducing the symptoms of autism. 


What does research say about diet and autism?

According to, a review of studies carried out up until 2008 has been conducted, which explores this theory.

The review of studies showed that only two studies since 1965 were of good enough quality to be included in the review. In total, these two studies included 35 patients. One study showed a very small but measurable improvement in, among other things, social isolation and the ability to communicate, and thus provided research support for the theory.

The second study found no difference between the two groups.

The conclusion is that with so few patients, one can not say that this type of diet has any sure effect. One can not say anything about any harmful effects of such a diet.

It should, however, be noted that more recent studies may have found other results, something that is not addressed in this article.


Should the diet of autism be changed? recommends that if you want to try such treatment on your child, you should confer with the treatment team. To ensure a complete diet, one should get help from a professional.

Other relevant opinions are listed here:


  1. A review of studies in the reputable Cochrane database shows that currently there is no research coverage to say that gluten-free and casein-free diets have a positive effect on autism, nor to the extent that such a diet creates problems, but it is emphasized that more research is needed in the area to be able to provide safe advice.
  2. In anticipation of more research support, a number of parents are trying out the method. In an article on which shows that something has happened twenty-fold increase in autism diagnoses in the last 15 years, parents of an autistic child say that they have great faith that dietary supplements and a diet free of milk and flour make the daughter calmer.
  3. also writes that there is a lack of good research on the topic, but that many parents have reported improvements in switching to a milk- and milk-free diet.