Linda Bandini in The Wall Street Journal: Study on gluten-free diet and children with autism needs to be replicated with larger group

September 15, 2015

A study that found a gluten-free, casein-free diet doesn’t appear to improve behaviors or symptoms of autism needs to be done with a larger group to be certain the diet isn’t effective in children with autism, a UMass Medical School professor told The Wall Street Journal

Replicating these findings in a similarly high-quality study in a larger group of participants will be important to determine conclusively that the diet isn’t effective in children with autism, Linda G. Bandini, PhD, RD, associate professor of pediatrics at UMass Medical School, told The Wall Street Journal in the Sept. 14 article. The article focused on the results of the study, which was published this month in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.

Children with autism are so different from each another it’s difficult to generalize from the small study that the diet won’t work for any children who have autism, Bandini said in the article.

Bandini is co-investigator on Health U, a program within the medical school’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver Center that aims to help overweight young people ages 15-22 with intellectual disabilities lose weight through group and individual counseling. The program is one of two nutrition-related pilot programs involving youths with disabilities at the Shriver Center. The other program, The Children's Mealtime Study, is examining the eating patterns and mealtime behaviors of children ages 3-8 with or without intellectual disabilities and developmental delays.

Another Shriver initiative, the Healthy Weight Research Network, is promoting the understanding of obesity risk factors in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and other developmental disabilities, and solutions for reaching and maintaining healthy weights.

UMass Medical School is a national leader in autism research. The Shriver Center is working at the national, state and community levels to promote the early screening and intervention of children with developmental disabilities, including ASD.