Autism (Part III)

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It has been stated that what a child eats can significantly impact his brain and bodily functions positively or negatively.  This would make it imperative to know exactly how food impacts the child.  If a child is not getting the proper nutrition on a daily basis, their body as a whole will not function at its optimal ability.  Nutritional interventions can be geared toward specific issues a child may have: targeting the need to improve cognitive functioning, or treat physical problems (ie food allergies), GI disorders, and improve immunity.  Putting an autistic child on a specific diet has been proven to show significant advantages, especially since the standard meal of many children consists of mainly processed foods that are lacking nutrients and are overloaded with trans fats, sugar and preservatives (Strickland 9). One of the most popular diets being used as an intervention for autistic children is the GFCF diet.  This diet is designed to totally eliminate all gluten (found in wheat, rye, and barley) and casein products. These are the products that contain the main protein found in dairy (e.g. milk, cheese, whey).  Ashwood and colleagues found distinct mucosal pathologies in children with ASD and GI Symptoms.  They noted the apparent positive effect in the colonic mucosa between children on and off the GFCF diet and recommended further study.  Dr. Cade conducted a study which included 120 individuals with schizophrenia and 149 children who met the Statistical Manual of Mental disorders criteria for autism.   All children with autism received a GFCF diet that was a synthesis of milk free by Kidder and the Gluten Free Gourmet by Hagman.  This open unblended trial included physiological measures as well as parental and teacher reports.  Eighty-seven percent of the children with autism had high titer IgG antibodies to gliadin, and 30% had high titer transindolylacryloylglycine antibodies to gluten or casein (Elder 584).  It was noted by parents and teachers that there was an improvement of 81% in the children’s class work within 3 months. There have been debates as to the GFCF diet being too difficult to manage for an extended period of time.  Additionally, with so many foods being eliminated, this framework results in a very restricted diet.  A child on the diet must be watched to ensure that they are getting the proper intake of nutrients.  One of the GFCF diets biggest obstacles is that most foods must be made from specific ingredients, which is hard for parents on the go.  In today’s society, the GFCF diet is very time consuming for a parent.   One cannot stop at a fast food place to pickup a meal or a snack, because foods that meet the GFCF guideline are unavailable.  A parent may notice when shopping that their food bill can be more than double when shopping for a GFCF diet.  Many parents dropped out of clinical trial or have not completed the trial due to these issues.  This diet has provided some preliminary evidence, yet more work and case studies need to be done.  The diet needs to be easier to stay on because it is so difficult to take on the challenge of implementing the diet. These studies will enable the dietetic profession to assist children in nutritional counseling and dietary intervention.  Currently two studies are underway: a single blind trial in Norway and a double–blind trial in the United States being conducted by the National Health Institute.

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