Paleo Diet: Autism and Diabetes

Could the chocolate smeared over this lovely child's face be partially responsible for his condition? Image courtesy Wikipedia.org

Is it possible that autism and diabetes have a connection? In researching the Paleo diet I’ve come across some interesting connections between diseases and conditions that would not appear to be related in any way. Autism and diabetes are one such pair. We know that the Paleo diet can reverse and possibly cure diabetes, but could the Paleo diet help reduce the symptoms of autism?

Biochemist, Michael Stern, of Rice University’s BioScience Research Collaborative, believes there is a connection.

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In an opinion piece which appeared online in this month’s issue of Frontiers in Cellular Endocrinology, he wrote, “It appears that both Type 2 diabetes and autism have a common underlying mechanism — impaired glucose tolerance and hyperinsulinemia…”

Hyperinsulinemia, often a precursor to insulin resistance, is a condition characterized by excess levels of insulin in the bloodstream. Insulin resistance is often associated with both obesity and Type 2 diabetes.

“It will be very easy for clinicians to test my hypothesis,” said Stern, professor of biochemistry and cell biology at Rice. “They could do this by putting autistic children on low-carbohydrate diets that minimize insulin secretion and see if their symptoms improve.”

Stern said he first realized there could be a common link between Type 2 diabetes and autism a few years ago, but he assumed someone else had already thought of the idea.

Stern’s lab, which is located at Rice’s BioScience Research Collaborative, specializes in investigating the genetic interactions associated with genetic diseases like neurofibromatosis, a disorder in which patients are several times more likely to be afflicted with autism and autism spectrum disorders (ASD) like Asperger’s syndrome.

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We know that the incidence of autism is increasing, but we don’t know why. Many people are blaming early childhood vaccinations, which could be a part of the answer. But like many conditions we do not fully understand there may be many underlying reasons for this increase in autism. And while the rise in a disease like diabetes doesn’t necessarily correlate with autism, the possibility is still there and that is what Stern saw, through the research he had already done.

“When I read that the incidence of autism was increasing, and combined that with the fact that the incidence of Type 2 diabetes is also increasing, it seemed reasonable that each increase could have the same ultimate cause — the increase in hyperinsulinemia in the general population,” Stern said. “I didn’t do anything with this notion for a few years because it seemed so obvious that I figured everyone already knew this hypothesis, or had tested it and found it was not true.”

Stern said he changed his mind a few months ago when a health care consulting firm asked him to provide input about autism.

“….. I discovered that gestational diabetes was the most important identified maternal risk factor for autism, but that ‘no known mechanism could account for this,’” Stern recalled. “When I read this, I was speechless. That’s when I realized that this was not obvious to others in the field, so I decided to write this up with the hope that clinicians might become aware of this and treat their patients accordingly.”

“I was checking to see if insulin was known to affect synaptic function, and I learned that the nasal application of insulin is already being tested to see if it is beneficial for both Alzheimer’s and schizophrenia.”

Stern said he also found preliminary studies that indicated that low-carb diets were therapeutic for some individuals with autism and ASD.

“Based on what’s already in the literature, insulin needs to be taken seriously as a causative element in autism,” Stern said. “I hope that clinicians will take the next step and put this to a rigorous test and determine how to best use this information to benefit patients.” ….  Read the full article here at

While this is still theory, it may be a relatively easy one to prove. Do you have an autistic child? Do you know an adult with Asperger’s syndrome? Want to try a low cost, no-risk experiment? Put your child on the Paleo diet for 30 days. Record any changes you see in your child. If you see no difference, you’ve not risked their health or lost anything, but if you do, you may have changed your child’s world forever. The Paleo diet might prove to reduce the symptoms of autism as it has for diabetes, and for the same reasons!

Have you already tried the Paleo diet or a low carbohydrate diet for your autistic child? Have you seen any changes you’d like to share with our audience? Please leave your comments below.

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5 Responses to Paleo Diet: Autism and Diabetes

  1. Pingback: Paleo Diet: Autism and Diabetes » Paleo Diet News | Control Diabetes

  2. Lyndsey Poindexter-Johnson January 17, 2012 at 12:31 pm

    I have a 16 yo child with Asperger’s/ ADHD/OCD. I want to try this desperately, and I have been feeding the whole family paleo for a while now. I attempted to remove carbs from 16 yo diet a few times, but he is a food seeker! He’s eaten straight brown sugar and drank BBQ sauce from a bottle. Dr. wanted me to have genetic testing to see if he is mentally retarded (his IQ is 130, straight A’s in school, NO learning disabilities, why would I test for this?). Any advice on how to make him realize the importance of trying this? He really doesn’t seem to be able to control himself around food (ever seen a compulsive germaphobe handwasher eat food out of a garbage can?). He’s in counseling, but it really isn’t helping.

    • Lila Solnick January 18, 2012 at 7:39 am

      Hi Lyndsey,

      Thank you for your comments. Unfortunately I cannot make any recommendations on how to get your son to eat a better diet. This is virtually impossible with any teen. At 16 he’s practically an adult and short of locking him up and controlling what he gets to eat, I am not sure what you can do. The idea that “He really doesn’t seem to be able to control himself around food” is part of the carbohydrate addiction that we all suffer from. This isn’t just a matter of self control, it is also a brain chemical response. And any teenager will not see the need to control eating, unless the teen is a girl with anorexia or bulimia. That is a different problem.

      Someone once told me of their own child with a similar problem. She said that she had given her son the tools (knowledge) with which to make healthy choices and at some point he would. You cannot control people, but you can educate and inform. Continue to do that with your family as you have been doing already. Your son is smart. If he sees the positive improvement in other family members health then maybe he will decide to change what he is doing.

      A thought just occurred to me. There are some therapies that might help. I am not a fan of psychiatric counseling since it really doesn’t fix anything. But therapies like Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), Thought Field Therapy (TFT) and Bio Energetic Synchronization Technique (B.E.S.T.) may be of assistance. All of these therapies deal with resetting and correcting the energy flow (chi) in the body. EFT, for example, has been used with tremendous success on Vietnam vets and more recent vets who have been suffering from PTSD. I have used for EFT for years with great success and am interested in TFT & BEST. There are therapists for all of these techniques. I don’t know if these will help your son’s condition, but since it is at worst, harmless, I’d say it’s worth a shot. To find a therapist near you visit these sites:

      EFT – http://www.eftuniverse.com/ (I just tried this link and for some reason it didn’t work – it did a few days ago)
      TFT – http://www.tftpractitioners.com/
      BEST – http://www.morter.com/

      Please keep me updated on what happens with your son. I am really interested in knowing how things work out, whatever you end up doing.

      Thanks for visiting
      Lila

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