Researchers study diet and autism

Aug 07, 2008

Researchers at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston have embarked on one of the first double-blind, clinical studies to determine whether gluten and dairy products play a role in autistic behavior as parents have anecdotally claimed.

The pilot study is one of seven current studies on autism in the Department of Pediatrics and the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at The University of Texas Medical School at Houston.

"There's a lot of misinformation, so that's why this study is so important," said Fernando Navarro, M.D., assistant professor of pediatrics at the medical school and lead investigator of the study. "Hundreds and hundreds of parents think this works but we need serious evidence."

Autism is a complex neurobehavioral disorder linked to early abnormalities of brain development. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, it affects up to six of every 1,000 children and is characterized by impaired social interaction, problems with verbal and nonverbal communication and unusual, repetitive or severely limited activities and interests. Researchers have discovered that there are differences in the central nervous system's anatomy and function in those diagnosed with autism, but the cause of the disorder is unknown. Experts theorize it may be a combination of genetics and environment.

"A lot of children with autism have gastrointestinal problems such as constipation and diarrhea. Whether these problems are related to brain development is open to question," said Katherine Loveland, Ph.D., co-investigator and professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, pediatrics and biomedical sciences at the health science center. "There are neurotransmitters and neuroreceptors in the gut that correspond with those in the brain. There are some scientific reasons to think that some kids may benefit from this diet."

For the double-blind study, funded in its initial phase by supplemental funds granted by the Department of Pediatrics, researchers will enroll 38 autistic children ages 3 to 9. They will look at the influence of gluten and milk proteins in the intestinal function. Gluten is a protein in wheat; casein and whey are proteins in milk. Casomorphin, a peptide in milk; and gliadomorphin, a peptide in gluten, are thought to be related to changes in behavior in these children. Children will be taken off gluten and dairy products before the four-week study and then half will be given gluten/milk powder and half will be given a placebo powder.

Researchers will study intestinal permeability (leaky gut) through urine collection and behavior through psychometric testing.

Source: University of Texas

Explore further: New technology that is revealing the science of chewing

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Do synthetic food colors cause hyperactivity?

Jan 06, 2011

Food coloring is the reason glace cherries are red rather than beige and that children's tongues sometimes appear freakishly blue. But man-made dyes may do more than make processed food look vibrant and whimsical. Some blame ...

Evidence lacking for special diets in autism

Jan 04, 2010

(AP) -- An expert panel says there's no rigorous evidence that digestive problems are more common in children with autism compared to other children, or that special diets work, contrary to claims by celebrities and vaccine ...

Recommended for you

Obese British man in court fight for surgery

Jul 11, 2011

A British man weighing 22 stone (139 kilograms, 306 pounds) launched a court appeal Monday against a decision to refuse him state-funded obesity surgery because he is not fat enough.

2008 crisis spurred rise in suicides in Europe

Jul 08, 2011

The financial crisis that began to hit Europe in mid-2008 reversed a steady, years-long fall in suicides among people of working age, according to a letter published on Friday by The Lancet.

New food labels dished up to keep Europe healthy

Jul 06, 2011

A groundbreaking deal on compulsory new food labels Wednesday is set to give Europeans clear information on the nutritional and energy content of products, as well as country of origin.

Overweight men have poorer sperm count

Jul 04, 2011

Overweight or obese men, like their female counterparts, have a lower chance of becoming a parent, according to a comparison of sperm quality presented at a European fertility meeting Monday.

User comments : 0

More news stories

Low Vitamin D may not be a culprit in menopause symptoms

A new study from the Women's Health Initiative (WHI) shows no significant connection between vitamin D levels and menopause symptoms. The study was published online today in Menopause, the journal of The North American Menopa ...

Tech giants look to skies to spread Internet

The shortest path to the Internet for some remote corners of the world may be through the skies. That is the message from US tech giants seeking to spread the online gospel to hard-to-reach regions.

Patent talk: Google sharpens contact lens vision

(Phys.org) —A report from Patent Bolt brings us one step closer to what Google may have in mind in developing smart contact lenses. According to the discussion Google is interested in the concept of contact ...

Wireless industry makes anti-theft commitment

A trade group for wireless providers said Tuesday that the biggest mobile device manufacturers and carriers will soon put anti-theft tools on the gadgets to try to deter rampant smartphone theft.