This has been a banner month for releasing research on autism, but this study gave me particular pause and I thought I should share it with you, if you have not seen it already. Here is a quote from the NIH press release:
“The study, by researchers from the National Institutes of Health and Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, was published online in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.”
“The researchers believe that boys with autism and ASD are at risk for poor bone development for a number of reasons. These factors are lack of exercise, a reluctance to eat a varied diet, lack of vitamin D, digestive problems, and diets that exclude casein, a protein found in milk and milk products. Dairy products provide a significant source of calcium and vitamin D. Casein-free diets are a controversial treatment thought by some to lessen the symptoms of autism.”
I encourage you to read the press release and the study in their entirety to draw your own conclusions. The study was small, 75 children, however, all showed thinner than normal bones. Of the 75 children studied, 9 were on a casein-free or low-casein diet. These children showed a 20% decrease in bone thickness compared to their typical peers. The remainder of children had a 10% decrease.
Being on a casein-free diet does not mean foregoing calcium or vitamin D, but you might need to work harder to be sure you get your full daily requirement. Calcium can be found in a variety of other items besides cow’s milk products. Many soy and rice milks are calcium fortified. Calcium is naturally found in many leafy-green vegetables. You can also buy orange juice with calcium-added. And there are always calcium supplements. Proper exercise and exposure to sunlight, as the researchers point out, is also essential. When in doubt, as always, consult your physician of choice.
APOV on Autism has a good online article here on the topic of making sure you are getting enough calcium if you are on a dairy-free diet.
For those of us with children who will not let even look at a green vegetable, many GFCF Moms and Dads have discovered that Jessica Seinfeld’s “Deceptively Delicious” technique of pureeing veggies and “sneaking” them into our cooking has worked well. Jim, over at GFCF Recipes Blog has had success with several of the recipes in this book. Childlife reviewed it when it first came out. I have for a long-time been secretly adding pureed spinach and carrots to spaghetti sauce, but this cookbook takes it to new heights.
Photo courtesyof the 2005 Kelly Awards Finalists for Advertising, produced by the California Milk Processing Board