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Autism leaky gut theory doubt

18th March 2008

UK research has shown that autistic children do not "leak" protein from their gut, disproving a popular theory.

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The "leaky gut" theory had proposed that children with autism do not have the ability to "fully digest" certain proteins from the food they eat and the resulting peptides can cause changes to the brain.

The theory is partly based on the assumption that the MMR vaccine can harm the gut, which leads to digestive disorders. Some parents limit substances such as gluten and dairy produce from their autistic child's diet.

Research published in the Archives of Diseases in Childhood by a team from Great Ormond Street Hospital, Guy's and St Thomas' Hospital and the University of Edinburgh showed that children with the condition did not have higher peptide levels in their urine than a control group.

The team examined the cases of 65 boys who had the condition and 158 who did not.

"It is very distressing to have a diagnosis of autism, a lifelong condition. Many families are driven to try out interventions which currently have no scientific basis," said Dr Hilary Cass of Great Ormond Street. "

"Advocates of the leaky gut theory offer children a casein and gluten-free diet which as yet lacks an evidence base. Our research throws serious scientific doubt on the putative scientific basis of that diet."

 

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