Queensland's most experienced provider of specialised education and therapy services for individuals on the autism spectrum.

Can supplementation with a prebiotic modify the GI microbiome and behaviour in children with Autism

Participants Required

This research is looking for children between 4 and 10 years of age with a clinical diagnosis of ASD. It encompasses all levels of ASD as per the DSM-5. We will not be able to accept children who have taken antibiotics in the past three months, those who have begun a regular probiotic in the past month or those taking prebiotics in supplement form. 

We will ask that your child take 2.4g (1/2 tsp) of either the prebiotic powder galactooligosaccharides (GOS), or the placebo maltodextrin for a period of 6 weeks. These products have a slightly sweet taste as they are derivatives of carbohydrates. They can be mixed in food or drink with very little change if any to flavour and odour, and no change to texture. We are aware that children with ASD often have a very acute sense of smell and taste and a sample will be offered before enrolment to ensure that your child accepts to take the product.

Description of Project 

Our research will look at the effects of taking a daily prebiotic (GOS) supplement compared to 6 weeks of a placebo on stress, behaviour, sleep, diet and gastrointestinal symptoms. We aim to reduce general levels of stress by modifying the gut bacteria which in turn may lead to improvements in response to behavioural therapies and learning. We will measure changes to the gut bacteria, changes to the stress hormone – cortisol, and changes in a variety of behaviours associated with ASD. None of the measurements will be obtained by invasive methods. We ask you to collect stool and saliva samples on day 1 and day 42 in order to measure changes linked to the prebiotic. Training will be provided but the method chosen is quick, easy and hygienic. We also ask that parents complete a series of questionnaires which will help detect behaviour change.

Animal models have shown reduced anxiety, improved mood, and reduction of repetitive or aggressive behaviours after treatment with the Prebiotic GOS, although we can not promise these results.

Supplementation with the prebiotic GOS has potential as a very simple treatment strategy to complement/enhance other behavioural therapies.

Benefits to Participants

Each participant will receive dietary behavioural therapy equivalent to 2 hours with a paediatric dietitian specialised in working with children with ASD. She will use the SOS approach to feeding.

Prebiotics are classed as functional foods and therefore will be freely available to the participant/family after the study if they wish to try. They are completely safe.

Contact Details

Jacqui Palmer (APD), Paediatric dietitian specialised in Autism and feeding difficulties.
P. 0470317447
E. j.palmer@hdr.qut.edu.au