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Autism, Diet and Behaviors

As discussed in my book, depression in individuals with autism may be expressed with increased intensity of problem behaviors. A recent study showed significant improvement in depression with a Mediterranean-style diet, (Natalie Parletta, Dorota Zarnowiecki, Jihyun Cho, Amy Wilson, Svetlana Bogomolova, Anthony Villani, Catherine Itsiopoulos, et al., "A Mediterranean-style Dietary Interventions Supplemented with Fish Oil Improves Diet Quality and Randomized controlled Trial," Nutritional Neuroscience (Dec 7, 2017): published online, doi:10.1080/1028415X.2017.1411320). 152 adults were randomized to either a social group or diet. Over 80% of individuals in the study reported "extremely severe" depression. Depression and quality of life improved in the diet group 45% at three months versus 26.8% in the individuals who received the social group intervention. In the diet group 60% of individuals no longer experienced "extremely severe" depression and the improved mental health was sustained at six months. The improvement in depression was associated with and improvement in vegetable diversity and nuts. Other mental health improvements were associated with increased vegetable diversity and legumes. Individuals with autism often have very selective diets but these can be improved through applied behavior analysis. A better diet improves both physical and mental health.