Purpose of review: The purpose of this study is to discuss the role of gluten-free and casein-free diets in the treatment of autism.
Recent findings: In a recent UK survey, more than 80% of parents of children with autism spectrum disorder reported some kind of dietary intervention for their child (gluten-free and casein-free diet in 29%). When asked about the effects of the gluten-free and casein-free diet, 20-29% of the parents reported significant improvements on the autism spectrum disorder core dimensions. The findings of this study suggest additional effects of a gluten-free and casein-free diet on comorbid problems of autism such as gastrointestinal symptoms, concentration, and attention. The findings of another recent investigation suggested that age and certain urine compounds may predict the response of autism symptoms to a gluten-free and casein-free diet. Although these results need to be replicated, they highlight the importance of patient subgroup analysis. Intervention trials evaluating the effects of a gluten-free and casein-free diet on autistic symptoms have so far been contradictory and inconclusive.
Summary: Most investigations assessing the efficacy of a gluten-free and casein-free diet in the treatment of autism are seriously flawed. The evidence to support the therapeutic value of this diet is limited and weak. A gluten-free and casein-free diet should only be administered if an allergy or intolerance to nutritional gluten or casein is diagnosed.