The Feingold diet (also known as the Feingold Program or KP Diet) is a type of exclusion diet which requires the individual to avoid artificial additives and salicylates.
The Feingold diet is based on the idea that some additives (such as synthetic colourings, flavourings, and preservatives) are harmful.
It is also based on the idea that salicylates (which are natural plant substances found in some foodstuffs such as citrus fruits and some medicines such as aspirin) are harmful.
The Feingold Association of the United States claims that the diet can be used to treat people with a wide range of conditions including autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
It also states that it can be used to help tackle a wide range of mental and physical health problems including gastrointestinal problems and sleep disturbances.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) made the following observations on the use of exclusion diets for adults on the autism spectrum:
“... there is very little evidence regarding safety and efficacy for exclusion diets ... for the treatment of autism”.
Eating a healthy, balanced diet is recommended for everybody in order to maintain good health. Anyone with a particular condition (in addition to or separate from autism) may be recommended to follow a special diet by a dietitian and this should be followed on an individual basis.
The Food Standards Authority has reported that there is some research to suggest that certain artificial food colours and the preservative sodium benzoate could be linked to increased hyperactivity in some children. However, to date, we have been unable to identify any studies into the effects of the Feingold diet or other additive-free diets on people on the autism spectrum published in English-language, peer-reviewed journals.
Determining if the Feingold diet has any significant benefits for individuals on the autism spectrum is therefore not currently possible. We must wait until further research of sufficiently high quality has been completed.
The Feingold diet can involve significant inconvenience and cost, as well as significant limitations on what you can eat. Because of this, we cannot recommend its use. However, because additive-free diets are commonly used interventions for people on the autism spectrum we strongly recommend that further research is undertaken into these diets.
This research should take the form of small scale pilot studies which use scientifically robust, experimental methodologies. It should also investigate if there are different subsets of individuals on the autism spectrum (such as those with gastrointestinal problems or those with intolerance to additives) who might benefit most from the diet.
Please read our Disclaimer on Autism Interventions