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Saturday, May 22, 2010

Dr. Bob Sears' Response to Hyman Diet Study

Allergen free Diet Can, and Does, Help Many Children with Autism

I've seen over 500 children with autism in my pediatric practice over the past 10 years, and in my experience the majority have benefited from the diet. Children with chronic GI symptoms, such as loose stools or constipation, seem to benefit the most, which would make sense. But I've seen some children without any GI symptoms improve on the diet.

So when I see a study come out that conflicts with my extensive clinical experience, I take a very close look at the study before I decide whether or not it should influence my medical decision-making. This new study, published by Dr Susan Hyman on May 19, 2010 from the University of Rochester definitely does not change my opinion of the possible effectiveness of the diet for children with autism. First, this was a tiny study of 14 children. The medical community rarely considers such a small study clinically useful. A much larger study would have more weight. Second, the study didn't allow for enough time to pass for the diet to create enough improvement to be clinically significant. In my experience, parents often see results from casein elimination within a few weeks. But gluten often takes longer, up to several months before benefits can be seen. Third, gluten and casein aren't the only allergens that children have to eliminate. In my practice, I eliminate all allergic foods at the same time to allow for maximum healing. A very common allergen on the diet is soy. It is possible that some children in this study had other foods that needed to be eliminated and weren't. Finally, two children in the study were excluded because they tested extremely allergic to gluten (positive TTG test). Such kids would be virtually guaranteed to benefit from the diet. It is likely the researchers wanted to determine if the diet would help the general population of kids with autism and not just those with severe gluten allergy. But including those two children in the study could have resulted in an outcome more in favor of the diet.

The mainstream medical community looks for treatments with a very high success rate. For example, if an antibiotic only improves half of kids with an ear infection, such an antibiotic wouldn't be approved. A drug or treatment needs to work very well in most patients in order for it to be adopted. Autism is unique, however, in that many treatments work extremely well, but not always in a high percentage of children. Does that mean we shouldn't offer such treatments? Not at all. If I have a particular treatment that would help even 20% of children with autism, I would offer it to all children. Those that do benefit can be blessed by improvement they wouldn't otherwise have. When it comes to the diet, my success rates are much higher than 20%. I would say that at least 75% of parents report positive results, and many of those report amazing results.

I'm not going to let a very small study such as this one prevent me from offering the hope of healing to parents, and I hope that parents everywhere consider trying the GFCF diet for their child.

Additional studies that are positive for Autism and dietary invention can be found at

Dr Bob Sears - Sears Pediatrics
And TACA Physician Advisory Board


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