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Diet for Autism: What Works?

Parents Who Try Special Diets for Autism Should Be Supported, Even Though Evidence Conflicting, Experts Say

Study of Nutrients in Children With Autism continued...

So in another new study, Stewart analyzed the food records of 252 children with autism, hoping to find out if their nutritional status is inadequate.

Although she has yet to complete the analysis of all the children, so far she found children with autism lack some nutrients but not others.

They are similar to other children, she says, in that they don't get enough potassium, fiber, vitamin D, vitamin E, or calcium. Like other children, they get too much sodium.

More children with ASD got enough vitamin K and E compared to general population.

While many parents give supplements to their children with autism automatically, she suggests health care providers should be asked about it. They should evaluate whether the children need extra supplements or if they get enough nutrients from diet.

In a third study presented at the meeting, Kent State University researchers evaluated the nutritional status of children with autism while on a GFCF diet. They looked at the diets of 31 children, ages 6 to 11. Some were on a GFCF and some ate a regular diet. They looked at three-day food records. Those on GFCF diets had lower intakes of vitamins B1, B2, B12, and D, calcium, phosphorus, and selenium than those on the regular diet.

Children With Autism and Gut Problems

There may be a subgroup of children with autism spectrum disorder who do better with dietary intervention, says Timothy Buie, MD, an associate in pediatrics at the Massachusetts General Hospital, who also spoke at the meeting. He often sees children with autism who have gastrointestinal (GI) problems, such as acid reflux, in which stomach contents travel back up the esophagus.

Buie showed videos of three children with autism. They had repetitive behaviors such as repeated flailing.  After evaluation, he found all three had acid reflux. But none had clear symptoms of a GI problem, he says.

''Kids with autism who present with GI issues warrant a through evaluation," he says. "But I think it's not happening." As Stewart said, parents should involve health care providers to address such issues.

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