ARI Publication 40 – 2013 Version
Summary of Dietary, Nutritional, and Medical Treatments for Autism
– based on over 150 published research studies
ByJames B. Adams, Ph.D.
see http://autism.asu.edu or www.autism.com for future updates.
This document is intended to provide a simple summary for families and physicians of the major
dietary, nutritional, and medical treatments available to help children and adults with autism
spectrum disorders. The discussion is limited to those treatments which have scientific research
support, with an emphasis on nutritional interventions. This report excludes psychiatric medications
for brevity. The dietary, nutritional, and medical treatments discussed here will not help every
individual with autism, but they have helped thousands of children and adults improve, usually
slowly and steadily over months and years, but sometimes dramatically.
This summary is primarily based on review of the scientific literature, and includes over 150
references to peer-reviewed scientific research studies. It is also based on discussions with many
physicians, nutritionists, researchers, and parents. This summary generally follows the philosophy of
the Autism Research Institute (ARI), which involves trying to identify and treat the underlying
causes of the symptoms of autism, based on medical testing, scientific research, and clinical
experience, with an emphasis on nutritional interventions. Many of these treatments have been
developed from observations by parents and physicians.
ARI Survey of Parent Ratings of Treatment Efficacy and Safety
Most of the treatments listed on the following pages were evaluated as part of the Autism Research
Institute (ARI) survey of over 27,000 parents on their opinion of the effectiveness of various
treatments for children with autism. For a full copy of the latest ARI Survey, see the last page. (For
Asperger’s see www.autism.com).
Almost all the treatments listed here generally have a much lower rate of adverse effects than
psychiatric medications, according the ARI Survey of Parent Ratings. However, adverse effects are
possible with any treatment, and in a few cases special Safety Notes are mentioned for particular
Behavioral interventions, such as Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), can also be very helpful to
children with autism, and are recommended to be used in conjunction with dietary, nutritional, and
medical treatments. Similarly, speech therapy, sensory integration, physical therapy, occupational
therapy, and a good educational program can be very important. Finally, social interventions such
as play with parents/siblings, play dates and social groups can be very helpful in building social
understanding, relationships and skills. Dietary, nutritional, and medical therapy may help improve
the efficacy of these other interventions, by improving brain and body health and making it easier
for the child to learn.
Note about Author: James Adams is a President’s Professor at Arizona State University, where he directs the ASU Autism/Asperger’s Research Program (http://autism.asu.edu), which focuses on researching the biological causes of autism and how to treat and prevent it. He has published over