The following article was published in THE AUSTRALIAN on Thursday November 14 2002
Parents should try cutting milk from the diets of autistic children, as dairy products might aggravate or even cause the condition, an autism expert has suggested.
The advice came as dairy giant Fonterra fights accusations in the New Zealand High Court it is covering up research linking autism and other mental disorders to milk consumption - by patenting the damning study.
Paul Shattock, from the University of Sunderland's autism research unit in Britain said about half of autism patients who tried a milk-free diet had success.
"We suggest people consider excluding dairy products from their diet for three weeks to see if there's an improvement in their health" he said.
Under the Fonterra study, autistic children were fed A1-type milk, suspected of causing mental disorders, according to a patent application obtained by The Australian. The study found the consumption of A1-type milk, which is the majority of milk sold in Australia, "may induce or aggravate neurological and mental disorders", including autism and the learning disability Asperger's syndrome.
But New-Zealand based Fonterra says the evidence is not conclusive and insists its milk is safe to drink.
The study involved New Zealand children being given either A1 milk or another strain of milk, known as A2. The children who drank the A1 milk showed a "marked increase (up to 10-fold)" of the peptide beta-casomorphin 6, which may aggravate or cause neurological and mental disorders, the study says. The problem did not occur with the A2 milk.
Fonterra sought the worldwide patent because it wanted to investigate developing a milk which did not cause these problems.
A2 Corporation is suing Fonterra, accusing it of suppressing evidence of a link between A1 milk and autism.
Although the medical community remains cautious, Sydney mother Debbie Paulo says the autism of her four-year-old son Bailey improved dramatically on a diet free of milk, gluten and wheat.
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