Thursday, October 20, 2011

Junk Food Diet May Cause Autism Through Insulin Resistance

By Julia Moravcsik, PhD, author of Teach Your Child to Love Healthy Food

Michael Stern, a Rice University biochemist has theorized that the same junk food diet that causes diabetes may also cause autism.

Dr. Stern found that genes that cause autism impact insulin signaling.  When they eat a poor diet, children with these genes may develop autism.

What to Feed Your Autistic Child

Stern suggests that a simple research study could verify his theory.  If autistic children are given a low carb diet, and their symptoms subside, then there would be evidence for his theory.

There is no need to wait for the published study.  A low carb diet is generally a healthy one, as long as it doesn't contain excessive amounts of meat.

Here are some steps to a healthy low carb and low glycemic index diet:

  • Eliminate all the sugar and other sweeteners from your child's diet.
  • Eliminate all refined flour from your child's diet.  Only feed her whole grains, especially whole grains that haven't been ground up (like sprouted wheat breads).
  • Step up the number of vegetables she eats.  Try to aim for 9 per day.
  • Give her lots of protein, but avoid too much meat, especially fried or grilled meats.
  • Give her at least one, and preferably two, servings of beans per day.  Buy a few bean cookbooks.

Insulin sensitivity can also be improved by these diet changes:

  • Eliminate most sources of saturated fat.  Milk is ok, but make it lowfat if your child is two years old or older.
  • Avoid fried foods.
  • If your child is overweight, help her lose weight by giving her real, whole foods.

Eat a Healthy Diet During Pregnancy

Eating a junk food diet during pregnancy may also increase the chances of having an autistic child, possibly through the same mechanism.  Big swings in blood sugar may affect the fetus if it has autism genes.

Avoid sweets, refined flour, and fatty foods during pregnancy.  Eat lots of vegetables, beans, and whole grains.  Feel free to eat fruit, but eat it with meals.

Ignore friends and relatives who encourage you to eat junk food because you're "eating for two."  These nine months are the most important months in your whole life to eat healthfully. 

More Information

For more information on the study, see this news release.

Would you like a simple, easy-to-follow program that will teach your child to love healthy food? See my new book Teach Your Child to Love Healthy Food on

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  1. Hi, I think autistic child is also a smart student although his response is very slow.

    If you see on bruce willis movie - mercury rising, the story is about an autistic boy but he's a genius. I wonder how...


  2. Thanks for your comment!

    Some autistic kids are savants. They are extremely talented in one area. Autistic kids can often focus on one activity for a long time, so they can become extremely good at it.

    It would be absolutely wonderful if autistic kids could become the smart kids that are hiding inside them just by following a low carb diet! I am crossing my fingers that Dr. Stern's theory turns out to be true.

  3. I'm so glad I found this book! My mother is overweight and for years doctors simply told her to eat less. However, she eats very little, excercises constantly and continues to gain weight. She's tried several diets and the results have always been minimal. Finally, one doctor said she might be insulin resistant. This book clearly details how your body's metabolic system can function more effectively by linking protein with carbohydrates at every meal. Unlike other diets that ask you to eliminate carbohydrates, which is unhealthy, this book tells you how to effectively keep carbohydrates in your diet. Some great recipes are also included. This book is better than a diet! It tells you how to successfully boost your metabolism with the foods that you eat!

  4. Love you blog....would you mind if i printed some of your articles out to pass out at my child school...i have already sent links to facebook on my wall..thank you for your blog

  5. Corrina -- Thanks for the comment. Feel free to print and distribute any articles you like!

  6. What are your reasons for recommending avoiding saturated fats? The things I've been reading indicate that saturated fats alleviate rather than aggravate insulin resistance.

  7. Liz -- There are books that claim that saturated fats alleviate insulin resistance. At this point, the scientific literature generally says:

    -- Saturated fat seems to increase insulin resistance (some scientists don't agree, but few actually say it reduces it)

    --Reducing saturated fats can increase insulin resistance IF the calories are replaced by sugars (as they often are). This doesn't say much about saturated fats -- it just says that sugar is worse!

    --Saturated fats contain different fatty acids. Some are worse at increasing insulin sensitivity than others. My prediction is that in the future we'll hear less about saturated/unsaturated/monounsaturated fats and more about individual fatty acids.

  8. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  9. Makes me think back to my first pregnancy when all I craved was ice cream sandwhiches and coke... not to mention how I didn't really get to nurse her long (6 wks). Now we are pretty sure my 7 yr old has Aspergers or some other ASD.
    It does run in my husband's family, but it is interesting that she is the only one w/ these issues and when I was pregnant w/ my other two I only craved spicy food so I gained much less weight with them.

  10. My heart goes out to you Tiffany. Thanks for sharing your story.

  11. The link between junk foods and autism is sad but not surprising.

  12. Thank you for writing this post. People should know that junk food is causing many deaths in the world. It is better to skip this dangerous food and substitute it with healthier food item.

    Mantis Hugo
    Goji Berry Juice


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