The gluten-free casein-free (GFCF) diet has taking a little bit of a pounding in the last few weeks, mainly due to the new study put out by the Mayo Clinic. This study compared gastrointestinal symptoms in children with autism to typical children and found that, for the most part, there were no differences.
Of course the results have been publicized far and wide as proof that the GFCF diet isn't needed and doesn't do anything. There are stories such as the one on Pediatric Supersite entitled "Dietary restrictions may do more harm than good for children with autism" all over the place. (In fairness, if you read the actual story it is a more balanced report than the title indicates; but then again, I think most people just read titles and skim the stories)
Then you have what is, so far, my favorite bastardization of the facts in "
Doctor rejects gluten casein free diet for autism" -
Experts at the Mayo Clinic found no potential in the gluten or casein free repertoire to heal the symptoms of autism.
The study says no such thing or even anything close for that matter. There was no data in the study at all about usage of the GFCF diet or symptom relief from the diet so how could it say that the diet doesn't work? The study looked at one set of potential symptoms that can lead to trying the diet, not at whether the diet itself actually did anything.
Of course there are also reports from the agenda driven sites such as Left-Brain Right-Brain which ran this one. In it Sullivan has cherry-picked two studies, the Mayo Clinic study and this one, and concludes that "there is no evidence that children with autism have GI problems at a greater rate than the general public", ignoring the numerous studies that have found the opposite. But what do you expect, if autism is just a "difference" instead of a disorder, as LBRB advocates, it would hardly do to define part of the difference to be perpetual diarrhea. But I digress.
One thing is certain, there is clearly a need for more research into GI issues with autism and how elimination diets might help the symptoms of autism. As it stands today there is a insufficient evidence to say that the diet is effective from a scientific or evidence based medicine point of view.
For me though, the question of whether the GFCF diet can work has already been answered.
It won't work for every child and it doesn't seem to be a "cure" for autism. But, when it is needed and done properly, it can make a major difference in the symptoms of autism.