Quality of online information on the Gluten Free Casein Free Diet for Autism Spectrum Disorder: a cross sectional analysis
Cardiff Metropolitan University
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Introduction: The internet is frequently used by parents and caregivers of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) to access information about interventions. It is therefore important that websites contain accurate, evidence based, easy to read information. This study aimed to evaluate the quality of information on a sample of publicly available consumer websites about the gluten and casein free diet (GFCF) as an intervention for ASD. Methods: Consumer websites providing information on the GFCF diet for ASD were identified using search engines and evaluated using a tool designed to assess their quality and readability. The tool was devised based on current guidelines and existing methods of evaluating online health information. Results: The information given on the websites was generally accurate and fair quality. The mean score of all the websites was 61%, with only 3 sites giving incorrect information. However, websites were often lacking in practical information, how the treatment may affect quality of life, supporting references, and were not updated regularly. Health information sites and those written by health professionals were found provide the highest quality information. The mean readability of the websites was found to be significantly harder than the average UK reading level. Conclusion: Although generally accurate and fair quality, some websites did not provide sufficient information for parents to make informed decisions about choosing the GFCF diet as an intervention for ASD. Health professionals should be aware of this and where possible direct parents and caregivers to reliable websites, such as those written by health professionals.
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