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With Autism, Diet Restrictions May Do More Harm Than Good
Date:7/27/2009

Study finds no increase in gastrointestinal problems in kids with the disorder

MONDAY, July 27 (HealthDay News) -- Children with autism do not have a higher incidence of gastrointestinal problems than other children, a new study has found.

However, autistic children do have a higher rate of constipation and eating issues, such as eating the same foods over and over, according to the study. But any number of factors, including medication, could cause these issues, the researchers said.

The findings appear in the August issue of Pediatrics.

Dr. Patricia Manning-Courtney, medical director of the Kelly O'Leary Center for Autism Spectrum Disorders at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, said that the study is an important one because it was the first to scientifically compare the incidence of gastrointestinal (GI) problems in an autistic population with incidence in children who are developing normally.

Even so, it's unlikely to quell a controversy that has been raging for more than a decade.

"A couple of highly publicized cases of autism and loose stools in the late 1990s led to an impression that children with autism had a higher rate of GI dysfunction," she said. "It wasn't well characterized, but that got the story onto the national scene."

This, in turn, led to theories that diets free of gluten and the milk protein casein might help the problems, along with treatment with the hormone secretin. Some even proposed that problems with the gut might be the cause of autistic symptoms, giving the matter added urgency.

But the evidence in favor of these hypotheses was "fuzzy," Manning-Courtney said.

For the new study, researchers followed 124 children with autism and 248 children without autism until they turned 18.

Gastrointestinal diagnoses were classified into five groups: constipation; diarrhea; abdominal bloating, discomfort or irritab
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