Autism, or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by abnormal behavior and communication skills. There are three distinguishing features of autism: repetitive behaviors/patterns, impaired communication (both verbal and/or non-verbal), and troubles understanding and/or reciprocating socially acceptable behavior and interactions. Recent studies suggest that there may be a positive correlation between the ketogenic diet and autism, including alleviation of common symptoms.
What are the Different Types of Autism?
Autism is described as a spectrum because it may manifest in various levels from high-functioning to severe. There are three main forms of autism: Autistic Disorder, Asperger Syndrome, and Pervasive Developmental Disorder. From there, autism can be subdivided into either idiopathic, meaning the cause is unknown, or secondary, meaning there was a genetic component or known environmental agent.
What are the Symptoms of Autism?
Symptoms range, but always include restricted/repetitive and/or abnormal social communication/interaction behaviors. Based on these symptoms, children can be diagnosed by the age of 2. Some of these behaviors include:
- Lasered-in or excessive focused interested
- Repetitive movements or behaviors
- Sudden outbursts, especially when in an unfamiliar setting or around something new
- Hypersensitivity (light, sound, touch, etc.)
Additionally, above-average intelligence may be associated with ASD. Most commonly, these strengths will be seen in math and science.
Who is at Risk for Autism?
Males are at a higher risk for ASD than females. Other risk factors include having older parents, and genetic conditions, specifically developmental disorders (like Down syndrome).
Ketogenic Diet and Autism: Can Going Keto Help?
While the exact cause of autism is unknown, leading theories suggest biochemical changes as a causative agent. Autism has been linked to neurometabolic and mitochondrial dysfunctions, as well as epilepsy-related disorders. The ketogenic diet has numerous metabolic benefits that may transfer to improving symptoms of ASD.
For more information about the therapeutic benefits of a ketogenic diet for autism, check out the Autism Spectrum Disorder Doctors Guide in Keto Club.
Research resources of the use of ketogenic diet in the treatment of ASD:
- Potential Therapeutic Use of the Ketogenic Diet in Autism Spectrum Disorders
Napoli, E., Dueñas, N., & Giulivi, C. (2014). Potential therapeutic use of the ketogenic diet in autism spectrum disorders. Frontiers in pediatrics, 2, 69
- Ketogenic diet improves behaviors in a maternal immune activation model of autism spectrum disorder
Ruskin, D. N., Murphy, M. I., Slade, S. L., & Masino, S. A. (2017). Ketogenic diet improves behaviors in a maternal immune activation model of autism spectrum disorder. PloS one, 12(2), e0171643.
- A modified ketogenic gluten-free diet with MCT improves behavior in children with autism spectrum disorder
Lee, R. W., Corley, M. J., Pang, A., Arakaki, G., Abbott, L., Nishimoto, M., … & Lum-Jones, A. (2018). A modified ketogenic gluten-free diet with MCT improves behavior in children with autism spectrum disorder. Physiology & behavior, 188, 205-211.
- Ketogenic diets improve behaviors associated with autism spectrum disorder in a sex-specific manner in the EL mouse.
Ruskin, D. N., Fortin, J. A., Bisnauth, S. N., & Masino, S. A. (2017). Ketogenic diets improve behaviors associated with autism spectrum disorder in a sex-specific manner in the EL mouse. Physiology & behavior, 168, 138-145.
- Keto versus gluten free casein free diet in autistic children: a case-control study.
El-Rashidy, O., El-Baz, F., El-Gendy, Y., Khalaf, R., Reda, D., & Saad, K. (2017). Ketogenic diet versus gluten free casein free diet in autistic children: a case-control study. Metabolic brain disease, 32(6), 1935-1941.
Chelsea Malone works as a researcher in the field of health and performance supplementation. She contributes science-based articles and information to Ketogenic.com. She received her Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Sciences from the University of Central Florida and her Master of Science in Medical Sciences from the University of South Florida. Her specialties are in biochemistry, immunology, and pathophysiology. In her free time, she enjoys cooking, traveling, hiking, and reading.