Another study on the gluten free/casein free diet and autism. This time focusing on kids with a sign of “leaky gut”

9 Sep

I recently wrote about a study of the gluten free/casein free (GF/CF) diet and autistic kids. The kids in that study were put on the diet and then given snacks with gluten and/or casein and their behavior was monitored. And nothing happened. Breaking the diet did not cause increases in autistic behaviors. But people complained that the study size was small (valid complaint, but not a killer) and that the kids in the study didn’t have GI disease (again, not a killer for the study. The GF/CF diet is marketed as a very general autism “therapy”).

But I wrote the previous article knowing that another study had just come out. A study focused on kids with “severe maladaptive behavior” and a sign of the so-called “leaky gut” syndrome. Gluten and casein supplementation does not increase symptoms in children with autism spectrum disorder.

The abstract is below. The researchers looked at 74 kids with “increased urinary I-FABP” I-FABP is intestinal fatty acid binding protein. And this is considered a “marker of gut wall integrity“. The study team found this marker elevated in a number of their subjects from a previous study.

While it isn’t clear in the abstract, the autistics in the study were on a GF/CF diet

To our knowledge, our study is the first randomised controlled trial to study the behavioural effects of adding gluten and casein to the diets of children with ASD who were already on a GFCF diet.

So, they had autistic kids who were on the GF/CF diet and they gave some of them gluten and casein snacks and the others GF/CF snacks. For a week. And they looked at the changes in behavior.

Both groups–those given gluten and casein and those who weren’t–saw improvements on measures of behavior. But there was no difference between the two groups on the measures of behavior.

There was no regression. No children made more autistic by gluten and casein.

In other words, no indication that the diet was doing these kids any good.

Here’s the abstract.

AIM:
A gluten- and casein-free diet is often given to children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). We aimed to determine the effect of gluten and casein supplementation on maladaptive behaviour, gastrointestinal symptom severity and intestinal fatty acids binding protein (I-FABP) excretion in children with ASD.

METHODS:
A randomised, controlled, double-blind trial was performed on 74 children with ASD with severe maladaptive behaviour and increased urinary I-FABP. Subjects were randomised to receive gluten-casein or a placebo for seven days. We evaluated maladaptive behaviour before and after supplementation, using I-FABP excretion, the approach withdrawal problem composite subtest of the Pervasive Developmental Disorder Behavior Inventory and the Gastrointestinal Symptom Severity Index.

RESULTS:
The mean approach withdrawal problem composite score was significantly higher before supplementation than after, both in the placebo and in the gluten-casein group. However, the mean difference was not significant and may have been caused by additional therapy. There was no significant difference in gastrointestinal symptoms and urinary I-FABP excretion.

CONCLUSION:
Administrating gluten-casein to children with ASD for one week did not increase maladaptive behaviour, gastrointestinal symptom severity or urinary I-FABP excretion. The effect of prolonged administration or other mechanisms of enterocyte damage in ASD should be explored.

©2015 Foundation Acta Paediatrica. Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

KEYWORDS:
Autism spectrum disorder; Casein-free diet; Gluten-free; Intestinal fatty acids binding protein; Maladaptive behaviour

There are a lot of limitations with this study, and the authors do discuss them. But, frankly, if the GF/CF diet were as good as people claim, this study would have shown at least some benefit.


By Matt Carey

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One Response to “Another study on the gluten free/casein free diet and autism. This time focusing on kids with a sign of “leaky gut””

  1. Jeff September 10, 2015 at 00:48 #

    Hey, we finally agree on something. I give my Daughter pizza all day long if that’s what she wants and over the years absolutely no behavioral changes no matter the food intake. Her behaviors are the most profound when she is showing signs of illness. Her behaviors come in waves and last a certain amount of time like a flare up, I know a nurse who got scratched in her lip and it got severely infected and left a discoloration on her lip. Now even years later she will have a flare up in that same location and it will become severely infected again, similar to recurring herpes virus. It can lay dormant in the spine and effects that specific path of nerves. What do you think Matt about this being related to autism?

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