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Cow's Milk May Not Be Beneficial for Children with Autism

There is some evidence that milk products may not be beneficial for children with autism. One of the most popular diets in children with autism is the gluten-free casein-free (GFCF) diet. The elimination of casein (cow's milk products) may be useful for children with autism due to the following reasons:

  • More than half of children with autism have antibodies against folic acid receptors, which prevents folic acid from entering into the brain and may cause a decrease in brain development and function. A Milk-free diet decreases the production of the antibodies against folic acid, which may explain why eliminating milk products from children with autism may be positive. Cow's milk may appear to increase autoimmunity or the creation of antibodies against self-tissues, which may induce loss of tissue and or function in humans.

  • Dietary cow's milk may increase the risk of diabetes in children by increasing the activation of the immune system and the production of autoantibodies against cow's milk.

What Can We Do:

*Almond milk


*Cashew milk

In my opinion, it is essential not only to improve the diet of children with autism but to address the severe deficiencies of brain-boosting nutrients like vitamin D, omega-3 fats, vitamin A, methyl folate, etc. Just doing changes in the diet without adding these nutrients by supplementation may not be sufficient to compensate for these deficiencies. This is most likely the reason for the failures of multiple clinical trials of different diets in children with autism.

It looks to me that the physician Jaquelyn McCandless was correct when she described in her book that children with autism are, in fact, "Children with starving brains." As soon as you start to improve the diet and add essential nutrients that are deficient in most children with autism, great things begin to happen.

There is hope for children with autism!

David Rivas, RPh, MSc, CCN

Pharmacist and Clinical Nutritionist/Consultant


Chia, J. S. J., McRae, J. L., Kukuljan, S., Woodford, K., Elliott, R. B., Swinburn, B., & Dwyer, K. M. (2017). A1 beta-casein milk protein and other environmental pre-disposing factors for type 1 diabetes. Nutrition & Diabetes, 7(5), e274-e274.

Frye, R. E., Slattery, J., Delhey, L., Furgerson, B., Strickland, T., Tippett, M., ... & James, S. J. (2018). Folinic acid improves verbal communication in children with autism and language impairment: a randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trial. Molecular Psychiatry, 23(2), 247-256.

Ramaekers, V. T., Sequeira, J. M., Blau, N., & Quadros, E. V. (2008). A milk‐free diet downregulates folate receptor autoimmunity in cerebral folate deficiency syndrome. Developmental Medicine & Child Neurology, 50(5), 346-352.

Ranjan, S., & Nasser, J. A. (2015). Nutritional status of individuals with autism spectrum disorders: do we know enough?. Advances in Nutrition, 6(4), 397-407.

Saukkonen, T., Virtanen, S. M., Karppinen, M., Reijonen, H., Ilonen, J., Räsänen, L., ... & Childhood Diabetes in Finland Study Group. (1998). Significance of cow's milk protein antibodies as risk factor for childhood IDDM: interactions with dietary cow's milk intake and HLA-DQB1 genotype. Diabetologia, 41(1), 72-78.

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