The Dangers of Extreme Limiting Diets for Autism
Desperation can sometimes lead to dangerous extremes. Families dealing with loved ones who have autism often face problems with their diets. Children and adults are usually described as picky eaters, but there is more to the issue than a refusal to eat chicken skin or asparagus. There are serious health consequences that need to be considered.
Self-limiting Diets vs. Caretaker-limiting Diets
Most extreme diets in autism can be divided into two categories: self-limiting diets and caretaker-limiting diets. In self-limiting diets, the person who has autism will refuse to eat certain foods or drink certain beverages. Sensory issues are often blamed for this, and the person tends to end up with an extremely small list of acceptable foods. In caretaker-limiting diets, the caretakers or family members decide to eliminate certain foods for the autistic person. They will often experiment with various diet plans which can heavily restrict what is eaten every day and will test elimination diets.
One of the biggest dangers of both self-limiting diets and caretaker-limiting diets are nutrient deficiencies. Are the children or adults who have autism getting enough vitamins, minerals, calories and other nutrients throughout the day? A study from New York, titled “MRI findings in pediatric patients with scurvy,” found that autistic patients with extremely restricted diets had scurvy. Another study from the Division of Critical Care Medicine at Columbia University found vitamin B deficiencies and liver dysfunction in an autistic patient on an extreme diet. This patient would only eat fried chicken from a fast food chain. The wrong diet can contribute to development problems, weight loss, malnutrition and growth issues. However, it is not easy for families or caretakers to find the correct balance of healthy meals because autism makes it more difficult. Experts recommend seeking help from professionals before deficiencies appear.