Elimination diets' efficacy and mechanisms in attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and autism spectrum disorder

Eur Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2017 Sep;26(9):1067-1079. doi: 10.1007/s00787-017-0959-1. Epub 2017 Feb 11.


Nutrition plays an important role in neurodevelopment. This insight has led to increasing research into the efficacy of nutrition-related interventions for treating neurodevelopmental disorders. This review discusses an elimination diet as a treatment for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and autism spectrum disorder, with a focus on the efficacy of the food additives exclusion diet, gluten-free/casein-free diet and oligoantigenic diet. Furthermore, we discuss the potential mechanisms of elimination diets' effects in these neurodevelopmental disorders. The main candidate mechanism is the microbiome-gut-brain axis possibly involving complex interactions between multiple systems, including the metabolic, immune, endocrine, and neural system. We conclude with practical implications and future directions into the investigation of an elimination diet's efficacy in the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and autism spectrum disorder.

Keywords: Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder; Autism spectrum disorder; Elimination diet; Food sensitivity; Gut–brain interaction.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / therapy*
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Nutrition Assessment