#VisualAbstract: Dietary Interventions for Autism Spectrum Disorder

1. A meta-analysis of studies evaluating dietary interventions used in treatment of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in children found that omega-3, vitamin supplementation, and other supplementations were more effective than placebo in treating a number of ASD symptoms.

2. All types of dietary interventions had small effect sizes relative to placebo, as well as low statistical heterogeneity and low risk of publication bias.

Evidence Rating Level: 1 (Excellent)

Study Rundown: Dietary and nutritional interventions are used by many families to treat ASD. However, evidence for the efficacy of most of these interventions remains limited and controversial. In this meta-analysis, researchers used study-level data from 27 randomized clinical trials studies to examine the effect of dietary intervention on an array of symptom groups in subjects with ASD. The meta-analysis revealed that dietary supplementation, including omega-3 and vitamin supplementation, was significantly more effective than placebo in treating a number of clinical domains, including anxiety, behavioral problems and impulsivity, and restricted and repetitive behaviors. These relationships were all of small effect sizes relative to placebo.

These findings are limited by the methodologic heterogeneity of the studies, which varied in intervention dose, outcome measures, follow-up time, and sample characteristics. Furthermore, most of the included studies did not assess the presence of baseline nutritional deficits. Nonetheless, the study is strengthened by its extensive meta-analysis of a large aggregated sample. For physicians, these findings suggest that there is little evidence to support the use of nonspecific dietary interventions in children with ASD, although there may be some benefits from a number of specific dietary interventions.

Click to read the study, published today in Pediatrics

Click to read an accompanying commentary in Pediatrics

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