Prebiotics in Autism: A Positive Study

Almost daily, I read some kind of research supporting the benefits of prebiotics.  (I cover this topic regularly:  for example, here and here.) Yesterday morning, I was extremely glad to learn that an actual study was recently done on children with autism.[i]  It’s always exciting for me to find actual in vivo autism studies…especially when they point to real things you can do now.  (You all know that’s a “thing” for me!)

First the researchers compared the diets of the 30 children at baseline.  They found that those on a restrictive diet (gluten and casein free) had “significantly lower scores of abdominal pain” as well as a different bacterial microbiome mix.  They found too though that those on GFCF, as well as the children on unrestricted diets, had similar levels of amino acids in their stools, likely from malabsorption of nutrients.  As the only significant difference between the groups, nutritionally, was that those on GFCF had higher levels of vitamin D, the researchers state, “These outcomes support the hypothesis that exclusion diet alone might not be enough to improve gut health.”

(Unfortunately, they only looked at GFCF – not Specific Carbohydrate. In my personal experience, only SCD leads to permanent resolution of  GI symptoms and improvements in the microbiota.)

The second part of the study involved putting the children onto a prebiotic, a form of galactooligosaccaride.  They found that it did help with GI issues, but more importantly, “…significant improvement in social behavior scores” were found in the children who were also following the GFCF diet.   They found too, in all the children, a reduction of the aforementioned amino acids in their stools, which is a sign of improved gut barrier function, possibly by improving the quantity of beneficial bacteria producing short-chain fatty acids, which, as you all know, are highly anti-inflammatory.

One item of particular interest:  after 6 weeks of intervention, those children on GFCF and the prebiotic had higher levels of the bacterium, B. longum, which has apparently been found, in previous research, to reduce stress and improve memory.

Thus, they conclude, “A combined dietary approach of a prebiotic and exclusion diet, resulted in a significant improvement in antisocial behaviour suggesting that such approaches might be more relevant for improvement of these aspects as well as psychological traits.”

Great news!


[i] Grimaldi, R, Gibson, GR, Vulevic, J, Giallourou, N, Castro-Mejia, JL, Hansen, LH, Gibson, EL, Nielsen, DS, Costabile, A. A prebiotic intervention study in children with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs).  Microbiome. 2018:6:133.

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