Special Diets, Dietary Supplements and Autism



Special diets are diets which have been modified in some way to bring about specific healthcare benefits. Dietary supplements (also called nutritional supplements) are substances which are intended to correct nutritional deficiencies.

Some people think that some autistic people have a range of nutritional and metabolic problems. These include low levels of nutrients, high levels of oxidative stress (a chemical state within cells that can increase cellular damage)and difficulties with metabolic processes (such as digestion).

Some people think that these nutritional and metabolic differences may be the cause of some of the core features of autism (such as impaired communication and social difficulties) and related issues (such as challenging behaviours).

They also think that some of these problems can be overcome by following a special diet, taking one or more dietary supplements and /or using detoxification techniques such as chelation.       


Eating a healthy and varied diet is important for good health.

Food and drinks provide a range of nutrients and all vitamins and essential minerals are just that – essential for good health. If too little of any of these nutrients is consumed, nutrient deficiencies can occur, which cause ill health. Consuming too much of any of these nutrients can also cause poor health. It is unusual to consume too much via foods, however taking dietary supplements with high levels of nutrients does carry a risk of nutrient overload.

Some diseases (such as cystic fibrosis), some conditions (such as cerebral palsy) and other factors (such as breast-feeding) increase an individual’s needs for some nutrients 

Some evidence shows that some autistic people may have nutritional and metabolic problems. However, the number of autistic individuals who have these problems is not clear. It is also not clear whether these problems or differences are any more common in autistic people than in other individuals. Possibly, these problems cause or worsen symptoms (of autism or related issues). Or maybe they arise because of autism, or they could be completely unrelated to autism. Nobody knows.

Most special diets and dietary supplements provide the same benefits for autistic people as they do to people who are not autistic. Some dietary supplements may make some problems worse for some autistic children and young people. 

Risks and safety

Many special diets and dietary supplements contain active ingredients that can have strong effects in the body, so those pose risks.

More information

Please see the section on Special Diets

Please see the section on Dietary Supplements

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16 Jun 2022