Autism Spectrum Disorder and Nutrition
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that approximately 1 in 68 children have been identified with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). ASD is a developmental disability that can pose significant challenges to a person’s social and communication skills. An ASD diagnosis is now inclusive of a number of different conditions: autism disorder, pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS), and Asperger syndrome.
Individuals with ASD can have a number of dietary concerns including inadequate energy intake, limited food acceptance, inadequate intake of important nutrients, underweight, and overweight or obesity. Many of these nutritional issues stem from a sensory sensitivity that causes them to avoid particular foods and even an entire food group, and should be addressed by a specialist. There are a number of different nutritional strategies that have been suggested for the treatment of ASD including a gluten- and casein-free diet, restriction of food allergens, probiotics, yeast-free diet, and the use of specific dietary supplements. However, there is little evidence-based research that supports these diets as an appropriate therapy for ASD. To ensure the health and safety of the child with ASD, it is important that families work with a nutrition professional when deciding to take a dietary approach to treatment.
For more ASD resources relating to nutrition, visit Healthy Nutrition for Children on the Autism Spectrum.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD): Facts About ASD. http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/facts.html. Updated February 24, 2015. Accessed May 19, 2015.
Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Nutrition Services for Individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities and Special Health Care Needs. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2015;115:593-608.
Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. What is the Current Status of Research Concerning Use of a Gluten-Free, Casein-Free Diet for Children Diagnosed with Autism? http://www.eatrightpro.org/resource/news-center/in-practice/nutrition-news/what-is-the-current-status-of-research-concerning-use-of-a-glutenfree-caseinfree-diet-for-children-diagnosed-with-autism. Updated May 2014. Accessed May 19, 2015.