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Nutritional management of (some) autism: a case for gluten- and casein-free diets?

  • Paul Whiteley (a1)

Autism spectrum disorders represent a diverse and heterogeneous array of conditions unified by the variable presence of specific behaviours impacting social and communicative functions (social affect) alongside other presentation. Common overt characteristics may come about as a consequence of several different genetic and biological processes differentially manifesting across different people or groups. The concept of plural ‘autisms’ is evolving, strengthened by an increasingly important evidence base detailing different developmental trajectories across the autism spectrum and the appearance of comorbidity variably interacting with core symptoms and onwards influencing quality of life. Reports that dietary intervention, specifically the removal of foods containing gluten and/or casein from the diet, may impact on the presentation of autism for some, complement this plural view of autism. Evidence suggestive of differing responses to the use of a gluten- and casein-free diet, defined as best- and non-response, has combined with some progress on determining the underlying genetic and biological correlates potentially related to such dietary elements. The preliminary suggestion of a possible diet-related autism phenotype is the result. This review will highlight several pertinent aspects onwards to an effect of food in some cases of autism including research on the pharmacological activity of food metabolites, immune response, issues with gut barrier function and some contribution from the gut microbiota. These represent promising areas in need of far greater research inspection in order to potentially define such a diet-related subgroup on the autism spectrum.

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Corresponding author: Paul Whiteley, email
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Proceedings of the Nutrition Society
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