Autism and the Keto Diet | New research

Autism written on the wipe board

As a former behavioral therapist (before I became a SAHM) for children with autism, I have a special place in my heart for this amazing population. I subscribe to news alerts on Ketogenic research since I follow this way of eating. I received an alert today on a new scientific study regarding autism and the Keto Diet! There has been speculation and recent recognition that inflammation may increase symptoms associated with autism. Because the Keto diet is widely known to help treat inflammation response in the body,  I’m excited they are studying the two together.

This is not the first peer reviewed study to be published on autism and the Ketogenic diet. In 2003 a pilot study followed 30 children, aged between 4 and 10 years, with autistic behavior for 6 months (1). The preliminary data of that study found evidence Keto may be an additional or alternative therapy of autism behaviors.

Happy child with painted handsRead the new abstract below, examining how the Ketogenic diet improves behaviors in a maternal immune activation model of autism spectrum disorder and see the full article including research methods HERE.


Prenatal factors influence autism spectrum disorder (ASD) incidence in children and can increase ASD symptoms in offspring of animal models. These may include maternal immune activation (MIA) due to viral or bacterial infection during the first trimesters. Unfortunately, regardless of ASD etiology, existing drugs are poorly effective against core symptoms. For nearly a century a ketogenic diet (KD) has been used to treat seizures, and recent insights into mechanisms of ASD and a growing recognition that immune/inflammatory conditions exacerbate ASD risk has increased interest in KD as a treatment for ASD. Here we studied the effects of KD on core ASD symptoms in offspring exposed to MIA. To produce MIA, pregnant C57Bl/6 mice were injected with the viral mimic polyinosinic-polycytidylic acid; after weaning offspring were fed KD or control diet for three weeks. Consistent with an ASD phenotype of a higher incidence in males, control diet-fed MIA male offspring were not social and exhibited high levels of repetitive self-directed behaviors; female offspring were unaffected. However, KD feeding partially or completely reversed all MIA-induced behavioral abnormalities in males; it had no effect on behavior in females. KD-induced metabolic changes of reduced blood glucose and elevated blood ketones were quantified in offspring of both sexes. Prior work from our laboratory and others demonstrate KDs improve relevant behaviors in several ASD models, and here we demonstrate clear benefits of KD in the MIA model of ASD. Together these studies suggest a broad utility for metabolic therapy in improving core ASD symptoms, and support further research to develop and apply ketogenic and/or metabolic strategies in patients with ASD.


1. Journal of Child Neurology / Volume 18, Number 2, February 2003



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