Better Self-control in Children with Autism with  the Chanwuyi Diet

Better Self-control in Children with Autism with  the Chanwuyi Diet

“We are what we eat”. In indeed, children with autism, who have difficulty to control their behavior, showed improvement after following the diet accordingly to Chanwuyi principle. How long to see the effect? One month.

More exciting, children having limited intelligence also become more flexible in problem-solving skills and exercise better self-control.

In the study, we randomly assign half of the twenty-four autistic children to the experimental group (i.e., with diet change) and the other half to the control group (i.e., without diet change). Parents of the experimental group children were recommended to modify their children’s diet by reducing the intake of ginger, garlic, green onion, spicy food, eggs, meat and fish for one month. These foods, according to the Chan-medicine principles, can easily generate excessive internal heat inside the body, which in turn, adversely affect one’s temper and cognitive functions. Therefore, changing dietary habit is one of the key components in Dejian Mind-body Intervention to enhance one’s psychological and physical health. To ensure a well-balanced nutritional diet, the experimental group children were also advised to take one to three kinds of food from each of the seven “good food” categories every day as listed in the table below. In contrast, parents of the control group children were informed to maintain their dietary habit as usual throughout the study period.

After the one-month period, children with diet change, even among those with limited intelligence, became more flexible and efficient in tackling problems and more capable of controlling their impulsive acts as revealed by their about 50% improved performance averaged across the standardized cognitive tests. Such extent of improvement is more than a triple of that in the children without diet change.  Consistently, parents also reported that their children had better social communication with others and reduced repetitive behaviours and loss of control after changing diet.

Furthermore, the one-month diet modification has even changed the children’s brain activity level as measured by the EEG technique. There was a significant increase in the activity level in the anterior cingulate cortex (a brain region responsible for self-control ability, which is circled in figure below) in children having diet modification, but not in those without diet change.

The encouraging findings of this study may provide a cost-effective alternative method for parents with autistic children to improve their difficulties inflexible thinking and self-control. More importantly, it offers a hope to parents with low-functioning autism to enhance their functional level and potentially their quality of life.


Reference: Chan, A.S., Sze, S. L., Han, Y. M. Y., & Cheung, M.C. (2012). A Chan Dietary Intervention Enhances Executive Functions and Anterior Cingulate Activity in Autism Spectrum Disorders: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2012. doi:10.1155/2012/262136