Comprehensive Nutritional and Dietary Research Study for Autism


After 16 years espousing the science and clinical efficacy of diet and nutrition for autism, I have become a published researcher! I was part of a study that was just published last weekend, led by Dr. Jim Adams, that researched the benefits (and synergistic effects) of six diet and nutrition interventions for autism, over the course of a year. The results are astounding! It states, “The positive results of this study suggest that a comprehensive nutritional and dietary intervention is effective at improving nutritional status, non-verbal IQ, autism symptoms, and other symptoms in most individuals with ASD.” This study validates nutritional intervention for autism, and paves the way for ALL families to receive nutrition support!! It’s titled “Comprehensive Nutritional and Dietary Intervention for Autism Spectrum Disorder – A Randomized, Controlled 12-Month Trial” and was published in the esteemed journal, Nutrients. It’s an open access journal so you can download and read the whole paper here. The study showed a 4.5x increase in developmental age over the non-treatment group and a 7 point rise in IQ!! There were improvements in:
  • Speech/communication
  • Sociability
  • Hyperactivity
  • Behavior
  • Autism symptoms
  • Sensory issues
  • Gastrointestinal symptoms.
We studied a comprehensive diet and nutrition intervention for autism – which consisted of 6 nutrient and diet interventions. My role was to help participants understand and follow a healthy gluten-free, casein-free, soy-free diet. I worked alongside my colleague, Dana Laake. Together we created and delivered an educational presentation and conducted one-on-one nutrition consultations. The study measured the effects of six interventions over the course of a year. Here’s when each were introduced:
  • Day 0: Vitamin/Mineral supplementation
  • Day 30: Essential Fatty Acid supplementation
  • Day 60: Epsom salt baths
  • Day 90: Carnitine supplementation
  • Day 180: Digestive Enzyme supplementation
  • Day 210: Healthy, gluten-free, casein-free diet
  • Day 365 – Final assessment
These interventions were chosen because each of them had already been studied individually, and found to be effective. And “the goal of this study is to investigate a comprehensive nutritional and dietary intervention to treat children and adults with ASD”… and “to investigate the effect of the combination of those treatments in a long-term study.” Researchers expected their effects to be synergistic. And it appears they were, given the outstanding results of the study! Some of which I shared yesterday around increases in developmental age, IQ, autism and digestive symptoms. Here are three very interesting cases from the study that deserved additional mention because the results were incredible!
  • 7-year-old boy with pica was healed entirely within one week of starting the HGCSF (healthy gluten-free casein-free soy-free) diet.
  • 27-year-old male with severe ASD and a history of severe urinary retention requiring daily catheterization was able to urinate on his own about 4 days after eliminating dairy products. By the end of the study, the young man no longer needed catheterization and had zero episodes of kidney stones, urinary tract or bladder infections.
  • One 9-year-old girl with severe ASD had poor strength, endurance, and energy levels at the beginning of the study. Four months after the treatment, she no longer needed her wheelchair. We found out that her pre-treatment diet was deficient in carnitine due to total avoidance of beef products.
The study had a wide age range, from 3-58 and measured improvements in all ages – showing diet and nutrition is helpful regardless of age or gender! It’s never too late to be nourishing hope! According to parents, the interventions that were most effective were:
  • Multivitamin/mineral formula
  • Essential fatty acid supplement
  • Healthy GFCFSF diet
And 85% or more planned to continue with the vitamin/mineral formula and the essential fatty acid supplement. And a majority planned to continue with the gluten-free, casein-free and soy-free diet and the epsom salt baths, as they found these nutritional interventions to be helpful and worthwhile. This study validates using a comprehensive diet and nutrition strategy to support improvements in health, learning, and behavior in those with autism, I call this approach “nourishing hope.” The most frustrating thing I hear from parents at conferences is “no one told me.” They were never informed that diet and nutrition matter, that their daily choices could make such a difference. In fact, they may have been erroneously told that “diet doesn’t help” or “there’s no science to it.” Truth is, there IS science behind it. Hundreds of studies support an overall scientific rationale for using food and nutrition to be help improve symptoms. This has been my message to families for years… Autism can be improved, and food matters. I love my autism families. I know nutrition makes a positive difference. And I want to help. That’s why I’ve committed my career to knowing as much as I can about the underlying biochemistry of autism and how to make strategic diet and nutrition choices that help – and teaching what I know to you – parents and practitioners alike – so that you can make the most from this approach. Thanks for being on this journey with me. Sincerely, Julie SaveSave

Julie Matthews is a Certified Nutrition Consultant who received her master’s degree in medical nutrition with distinction from Arizona State University. She is also a published nutrition researcher and has specialized in complex neurological conditions, particularly autism spectrum disorders and ADHD for over 20 years. Julie is the award winning author of Nourishing Hope for Autism, co-author of a study proving the efficacy of nutrition and dietary intervention for autism published in the peer-reviewed journal, Nutrients, and also the founder of Download her free guide, 12 Nutrition Steps to Better Health, Learning, and Behavior.

1 Comment

  1. Thats so awesome, great work Julie!


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