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Dietary Interventions in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders - An Updated Review of the Research Evidence

[ Vol. 9 , Issue. 4 ]


Luis F. Marti Pages 335-349 (15)


Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) is a group of life-long neurodevelopmental disorders, with onset before 3 years of age. They are characterized by qualitative impairmentin social interactions, absent or impaired language and communication skills, and present with a wide range of stereotyped, repetitive behaviors. Function and outcome are affected not only by core deficits but by associated behaviors such as hyperactivity, aggression, anxiety, and depression. Increasing evidence indicates that autism is a complex, multifactorial disorder involving the brain and the body, a result of genetic vulnerabilities interacting with environmental factors. Although genetics plays a role, the fact, that the incidence of autism in identical twins is not 100% points to external or environmental factors as contributors.

No etiology - based treatment has yet been developed. During the last two decades many educational, psychosocial and pharmacological interventions had been utilized and claimed to be effective and even “curative”. The word treatment should be used with caution, and should stand for interventions that are aimed to help people with ASD to adjust more effectively to their environment. Many studies have indicated that behavioral therapy and medication may be at least partially helpful in the treatment of children with ASD particularly on the symptoms of aggression, hyperactivity and attention.

In the light of an approved and well established treatment for ASD, over the past two decades research on the effect of diet and nutrition on autism has been increasing. Particular attention has focused on the role of food additives, refined sugar, food allergies, and fatty acid metabolism. However, the results are conflicting and not conclusive. We present here anupdated review summarizing the potentials and limits of the most frequent nutritional and dietary interventions in the treatment of Autism Spectrum Disorders.


Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), Complementary Alternative Medicine (CAM), evidence based, omega -3, fatty acids, gluten free/casein free diet.


Department of Pediatrics, University of Puerto Rico School of Medicine, PO Box 365067 San Juan, Puerto Rico, 00936-5067, USA.

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