Journal Says No Proof Special Diets Help Autistic Children

By Sadie Bass

Jan 4, 2010 6:24pm

New research was released today about children with autism, and it’s sparking a fresh round of intense debate.  The report from a panel of experts finds no scientific proof that digestive problems are more common in children with autism and no evidence that special diets work.  The research, published in the journal Pediatrics, has been met with controversy — many parents say that restrictive diets have helped their children by combating symptoms and behavior problems of autistic children.

Actress and activist Jenny McCarthy’s son was diagnosed with autism, and tonight she tells ABC News that she and many others have seen positive effects from wheat and dairy-free diets.

“We’re the ones seeing the real result,” she said.  “And until doctors start listening to our anecdotal evidence, which is this is working, it’s going to take so many more years for these kids to get better.  Every parent will tell you something different that helped their child, but all we know is that from this community we do see positive changes from this diet.”

ABC News Senior Health and Medical Editor Dr. Richard Besser said the report was important and that it lays out what is known scientifically and what still needs to be studied.

"The main conclusion is that doctors need to be on the lookout for gastrointestinal disorders in autistic children. They can be easy to miss due to the communication problems that these children have," Besser said. "Controlled studies of diets need to be done to determine whether they work — at this point there just isn’t evidence to answer that question.  Children on restricted diets need to be monitored closely for the development of nutritional deficiencies."

For more on special diets and the latest research, click here.  For ABC’s page on autism information, click here.

And you can see the panel’s full report in Pediatrics here.

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