The Keto diet has taken the country by a storm! That is because every day we are hearing about all of the benefits of the keto diet. The keto diet has been shown to help children on the autistic spectrum. Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder. The diet used was a keto, gluten-free diet.
What is the Autistic Spectrum
The autism spectrum is a developmental disorder that affects the behavior, communication, and social skills of the child. The symptoms of autism usually develop in the first two years of the child’s life.
Signs and Symptoms of Autism
- Inconsistent eye contact
- Inattentive to what other people are saying
- Inappropriate behavior
- Unusual facial expressions
- Repetitive or restrictive behaviors
- Sleeping problems
- Excel in math and science
There are medications used for children with autism such as Adderall, Ritalin, and Concerta. However, these medications can have some horrible side effects.
Autism and Dietary Interventions
The Keto diet has been used effectively to treat neurodevelopmental disorders. The ketogenic diet, which is a low-carbohydrate, moderate protein, and a high-fat diet has been shown to treat seizures in children. Therefore, scientists have started to do more research on the keto diet and other neurological diseases.
The Johns Hopkins Center has a Ketogenic Diet Center that is used to treat pediatric epilepsy. The keto diet has been around for since the 1920’s. Johns Hopkins researchers have used the diet on infants to teenage children with good results.
How Does the Keto Diet Help Autism Spectrum?
Studies have shown that the ketogenic diet alters the brain cellular metabolism through the use of ketone bodies. Ketone bodies are produced by the liver from fatty acids and they are used as an energy source when glucose is not available. Ketones are always in the blood, but ketones increase when there is no glucose in the blood to be used for energy.
Keto Gluten-Free Diet for Autism
The modified keto diet consisted of a daily intake of 20-25 grams of net carbohydrates. Protein and fats were based on the child’s weight. Medium chain triglycerides (MCT) oil such as coconut or pure MCT oil. The MCT oil was included in the daily meals. Gluten restriction was also maintained.
Gluten foods consist of:
- Brewers yeast
- Pasta and noodles
- Baked goods
- pancakes, waffles, cookies, and pies
The Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule was used to assess the symptoms of autism of the participants. The researchers assessed the behavior of the children at baseline and at 3 months.
Results of the Keto Diet for Children on the Autism Spectrum
All of the children who participated in the study had significant improvements in a majority of the autism features areas after 3 months. Improvements were noted in imitation, body use, fear, and nervousness in the children diagnosed with autism. This book, A Parents Guide to High Functions Autism Spectrum is a good resource.
Parents reported improvements in interest in other people, eye contact, meaningful language, hyperactivity, and schedule changes.
Side Effects of the Keto Gluten-Free Diet
The most common side effects of the diet were diarrhea, vomiting, dehydration, and hypoglycemia. All of the side effects occurred within the first 2-4 weeks of the diet. The adverse effects of the diet were minimal and they went away after 2-4 weeks on the diet.
There is evidence that autism is related to a dysregulated metabolism, and inflammatory processes. These children also have significantly lower HDL levels. Researchers are exploring how increasing HDL levels will help autism symptoms. We know that the keto diet increases HDL levels.
High-density lipoproteins (HDL), plays a role in immune response. The keto diet also produced increased albumin levels. Lower levels of albumin are assocuated with low levels of HDL. Ketones have been known to block inflammatory processes.
The keto diet has been shown to help the symptoms of the autism spectrum.