Impact Factor


Front. Hum. Neurosci., 04 January 2013 | http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fnhum.2012.00344

Gluten- and casein-free dietary intervention for autism spectrum conditions

Paul Whiteley1*, Paul Shattock1, Ann-Mari Knivsberg2, Anders Seim3, Karl L. Reichelt4, Lynda Todd1, Kevin Carr1 and Malcolm Hooper1
  • 1ESPA Research, The Robert Luff Laboratory, Unit 133i Business and Innovation Centre, Sunderland, UK
  • 2National Centre for Reading Education and Research, University of Stavanger, Stavanger, Norway
  • 3Fjellstrand, Norway
  • 4Department of Pediatric Research, Rikshospitalet Medical Centre, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway

Dietary intervention as a tool for maintaining and improving physical health and wellbeing is a widely researched and discussed topic. Speculation that diet may similarly affect mental health and wellbeing particularly in cases of psychiatric and behavioral symptomatology opens up various avenues for potentially improving quality of life. We examine evidence suggestive that a gluten-free (GF), casein-free (CF), or gluten- and casein-free diet (GFCF) can ameliorate core and peripheral symptoms and improve developmental outcome in some cases of autism spectrum conditions. Although not wholly affirmative, the majority of published studies indicate statistically significant positive changes to symptom presentation following dietary intervention. In particular, changes to areas of communication, attention, and hyperactivity are detailed, despite the presence of various methodological shortcomings. Specific characteristics of best- and non-responders to intervention have not been fully elucidated; neither has the precise mode of action for any universal effect outside of known individual cases of food-related co-morbidity. With the publication of controlled medium- and long-term group studies of a gluten- and casein-free diet alongside more consolidated biological findings potentially linked to intervention, the appearance of a possible diet-related autism phenotype seems to be emerging supportive of a positive dietary effect in some cases. Further debate on whether such dietary intervention should form part of best practice guidelines for autism spectrum conditions (ASCs) and onward representative of an autism dietary-sensitive enteropathy is warranted.

Keywords: autism, brain, gastrointestinal, gluten, casein, diet, intervention, intestinal permeability

Citation: Whiteley P, Shattock P, Knivsberg A-M, Seim A, Reichelt KL, Todd L, Carr K and Hooper M (2013) Gluten- and casein-free dietary intervention for autism spectrum conditions. Front. Hum. Neurosci. 6:344. doi:10.3389/fnhum.2012.00344

Received: 12 November 2012; Paper pending published: 27 November 2012;
Accepted: 14 December 2012; Published online: 04 January 2013.

Edited by:

Michael Smith, Northumbria University, UK

Reviewed by:

Emily Severance, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, USA
Jennifer Elder, University of Florida, USA

Copyright © 2013 Whiteley, Shattock, Knivsberg, Seim, Reichelt, Todd, Carr and Hooper. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in other forums, provided the original authors and source are credited and subject to any copyright notices concerning any third-party graphics etc.

*Correspondence: Paul Whiteley, ESPA Research, The Robert Luff Laboratory, Unit 133i Business and Innovation Centre, Sunderland Enterprise Park, Wearfield, Sunderland SR5 2TA, UK. e-mail: paul.whiteley@espa-research.org.uk