Autism and Diet: An Insight Approach

Autism and Diet: An Insight Approach

Komal Srivastava (Apollo Gleneagles Hospitals, India)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7004-2.ch010

Abstract

The parents of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) often try alternative treatments to reduce their children's symptoms, and one of the alternatives is a specialized diet. This diet is called gluten-free casein-free or GFCF diet. The GFCF diet has grown popular over the years. These children may be sensitive to the taste, smell, color, and texture of foods. They may limit or totally avoid some foods and even whole food groups. They may have difficulty focusing on one task for an extended period of time. It may be hard for a child to sit down and eat a meal from start to finish. The chapter highlights the impact of maternal nutrition, nutritional deficiencies, and GFCF diet in ASD.
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Role Of Nutrition In Brain Development

Intelligence is the global capacity of the individual to act purposefully, to think rationally and to deal effectively with his environment. Intelligence Quotient (IQ) refers to general cognitive ability, such as learning aptitude, reasoning, and problem-solving qualities. Development of brain begins in the very early period of conception i.e as early as 18 days after fertilisation and tends to continue even after birth. The fastest growth of brain occurs in utero, a vulnerable and important period. Suboptimal nutrition during brain development may affect cognitive development and behavioral performance over time (Anjos, Altmäe, Emmett, Tiemeier, Closa-Monasterolo, Luque, & Egan, 2013; Rees & Inder, 2005; Thompson & Nelson, 2001).

During pregnancy, important neurologic functions are developing in the fetus (Rees & Inder, 2005). Brain development in the last trimester of gestation is particularly vulnerable to inadequacy in the mother's diet (Anjos, Altmäe, Emmett, Tiemeier, Closa-Monasterolo, Luque, & Egan, 2013). Maternal diet has a long-term effect on their child’s neurodevelopment. It includes cognitive, psychomotor and mental development, IQ scores (verbal, verbal-executive function, and performance) and its effects on behavioral status. (Anjos, Altmäe, Emmett, Tiemeier, Closa-Monasterolo, Luque, & Egan, 2013; Hibbeln, Davis, Steer, Emmett, Rogers, Williams, & Golding, 2007; Gil & Gil, 2015; Starling, Charlton, McMahon, & Lucas, 2015). Intakes of specific food items, such as fish, during pregnancy, have shown positive associations with neurodevelopmental outcomes in childhood (Anjos, Altmäe, Emmett, Tiemeier, Closa-Monasterolo, Luque, & Egan, 2013; Gil & Gil, 2015; Starling, Charlton, McMahon, & Lucas, 2015).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Diet: It is a sum of nutritious food that is eaten by an individual.

Cognition: Cognition is a term referring to the mental processes involved in gaining knowledge and comprehension. These processes include thinking, knowing, remembering, judging and problem-solving. These are higher-level functions of the brain and encompass language, imagination, perception, and planning.

Casein Free: A casein-free diet in which milk protein (casein) is eliminated by removing all dairy products from the diet.

Autism Spectrum Disorder: It is a neurodevelopmental disorder that begins in early childhood and affects the communication, social interaction, cognition and behavior in children.

Gluten-Free: A gluten-free diet is a diet that strictly excludes gluten, a mixture of proteins found in wheat and related grains, including barley, rye, oat, and all their species and hybrids (such as Spelt, Kamut, and Triticale).

Nutrition: Nutrition is the process of taking food into the body and absorbing the nutrients in those foods.

Digestion: Digestion is the breakdown of large insoluble food molecules into small water-soluble food molecules so that they can be absorbed into the watery blood plasma. In certain organisms, these smaller substances are absorbed through the small intestine into the bloodstream.

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