Autism Diet Study

By Deirdre Imus Recently, reports on two new autism studies published in the January issue of the journal Pediatricsgenerated a great deal of attention.

Some media reports cited the studies as proof that dietary interventions don't help children with autism.

An Associated Press article led with the headline, "Evidence lacking for special diets in autism" and stated in the opening sentence, "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..."

"expert panel, no rigorous evidence"...sounds pretty convincing right?

Here is what the study actually says.

"Anecdotal reports that restricted diets may ameliorate symptoms of ASDs in some children have not been supported or refutedin the scientific literature, but these data do not address the possibility that there exists a subgroup of individuals who may respond to such diets."

If you read only the AP report, you might think the study found no value in these special diets and implied that parents and physicians who suggest otherwise don't know what they are talking about. And this was the "talking point" repeated in subsequent news reports.

But this is not what the study said.

The study found: "Despite the limitations in type and quality of available evidence, the preponderance of data were consistent with the likelihood of a high prevalence of gastrointestinal symptoms and disorders associated with ASDs."

Now common sense tells us that millions of American adults are on specific or restrictive diets because of dietary sensitivities, which can cause serious pain and discomfort. It stands to reason that children, including children with autism - who may not be able to communicate their pain - could suffer from similar sensitivities. These new studies acknowledge this is a possibility and recommend physicians take seriously GI symptoms in children with ASD.

Likewise, thousands of parents have reported an improvement in their child's health and behavior after adjusting their child's diet.

Life is tough enough for parents caring for a child with a serious and heart-wrenching disorder like autism. Articles that misrepresent or overstate study observations do a serious disservice to parents and physicians trying to help these children.

Deirdre Imus is the founder and president of The Deirdre Imus Environmental Center for Pediatric Oncology (r) at Hackensack University Medical Center and Co-founder and Co-director of the Imus Cattle Ranch for Kids with Cancer. Deirdre is the author of four books, including three national bestsellers. She is a frequent speaker on green living and children's health issues, and is a contributor to For more information on Deirdre, visit