One of the most complex conditions we know of today is autism, otherwise known as autism spectrum disorder. Through the years, the number of children who have this condition has continued to increase. In fact, the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 1 in 68 children will have autism, as opposed to 1 out of every 2,000 children in the 1980s.
Many people aren't sure if the ketogenic diet can help a child with autism spectrum disorder and that's a valid question to have. Let's find out how the keto diet can possibly help children, in particular, with autism.
In a pilot study of 30 children with autism, the participants were placed on a ketogenic diet for six months. The diet specifically consisted of 30% medium chain triglyceride oil (a ketone level boosting saturated fat), 30% fresh cream, 11% saturated fat, 19% carbohydrates, and 10% protein along with vitamin and mineral supplements. Although this wasn’t a very strict ketogenic diet, the children that stuck to the diet were able to get into ketosis.
23 of the 30 children tolerated the diet beyond the initial four weeks, and of those, five more discontinued the diet due to lack of improvement. Of the remaining 18 kids, two boys improved enough in symptoms to be taken out of special education classes and placed in mainstream education.
Overall, the 18 children that stuck to the ketogenic diet “presented with improvements in their social behavior and interactions, speech, cooperation, stereotypy [repetitive movements or utterances], and… hyperactivity, which contributed significantly to their improvement in learning.”
These are incredible results, but the most surprising finding of the study is that the children maintained their improvements when they went back to their regular diet.
However, the results weren’t positive for every child in the study. Children with the most severe cases of autism, for example, didn’t stick to the diet nor did they see any improvement. The benefits were only seen in children with milder cases of autism.
In a recent meta-analysis, two independent reviewers investigated the relationship between autism spectrum disorder and the ketogenic diet in humans and experimental studies. The reviewers found three studies with animals and five studies with humans that met their inclusion criteria. After analyzing the data from these studies, the researchers concluded that:
The limited number of reports of improvements after treatment with the KD [ketogenic diet] is insufficient to attest to the practicability of the KD as a treatment for ASD [autism spectrum disorder], but it is still a good indicator that this diet is a promising therapeutic option for this disorder.
Unfortunately, it doesn't seem like there's enough evidence that suggests that the keto diet would work as a treatment option for autism, but it does seem like it has had some promising results. Out of other diets that have been studied, it seems like it's an excellent dietary option.
Obviously, a healthy diet that's full of vegetables and protein is important, so parents may want to consider implementing food from the keto diet into their child's diet more frequently. It shouldn't hurt to incorporate healthy vegetables and other vital nutrients into a child's daily meals, especially for children with autism. There's more about the keto diet and the studies that have been done on autism on Ruled.Me.
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