ketogenic diet and autism

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:

  1. 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

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

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