A quarterly publication of the Autism Research Institute

The Autism Research Review International is quarterly publication of the Autism Research Institute

Summer, 2017 | Number 3, Volume 31

Ketogenic, GFCF diets appear to benefit children with ASD

Both a modified Atkins diet and a gluten-free, casein-free diet appear to be valuable interventions for young children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD), a new study by researchers in Egypt concludes. 

In the six-month study, Omnia El-Rashidy and colleagues divided 45 children between 3 and 8 years of age, all diagnosed with ASD, into three groups: 

• One-third of the children ate the modified Atkins diet (MAD), a less restrictive version of the ketogenic diet (which is high in fat, contains moderate protein, and drastically reduces carbohydrate intake). On this diet, the children obtained approximately 60% of their calories from fat sources, 30% from proteins, and 10% from carbohydrates. 

• One-third of the children ate a gluten-free, casein-free (GFCF) diet. 

• One-third of the children—the control group—ate a basic balanced diet. 

Five children in the MAD group dropped out of the study before completion. The remaining children in this group exhibited Ketogenic, GFCF diets appear to benefit children with ASD significant improvement on the Childhood Autism Rating Scale (CARS) and the speech, social, and cognitive parameters of the Autism Treatment Evaluation Checklist (ATEC). 

No children in the GFCF diet group dropped out. This group also improved their scores on the CARS, and on ATEC subscores of speech/language/communication and behavior. 

Overall, the children in the MAD group improved more than those in the GFCF group, exhibiting a higher percentage of positive changes. Children in the control group exhibited no significant changes. 

The researchers’ findings are consistent with a growing body of research indicating that both ketogenic-style and GFCF diets can benefit many children with autism. However, El-Rashidy and colleagues note that large-scale studies are needed to confirm their results.


“Ketogenic diet versus gluten free casein free diet in autistic children: a case-control study,” Omnia El-Rashidy, Farida El-Baz, Yasmin El-Gendy, Randa Khalaf, Dina Reda, and Khaled Saad, Metabolic Brain Disease, August 14, 2017 (online). Address: Khaled Saad, [email protected].