DAN (Defeat Autism Now)

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One of the families I am working with are going for a consultation with a DAN (Defeat Autism Now) Doctor. They are interested in the biomedical treatment/diets she can provide. I am concerned since I cannot find any research/evidence for this.  I was wondering if anyone has had any experience of this through the children they are working with.





Edited on February 23, 2017 - 9:20am

March 21, 2012 - 1:43pm

Hi Janine,

I have never heard of DAN - I have had a look and cannot find any reserch or evidence for this either. 

It would be really interesting to hear from any one who has either any information about this or any personal experiences


March 21, 2012 - 2:21pm

Hi Janine,

For anyone exploring different interventions and therapies, whether these are biomedical, behavioural, dietary etc... it is important to explore the evidence for these. This can often be a difficult process as you and Carly have experienced. 

You may want to explore any specific interventions and therapies suggested via Research Autism. Research Autism is the only UK charity exclusively dedicated to research into interventions in autism and a site where you should be able to find evidence and research behind specific interventions/therapies.

The NAS has also written some information for people exploring different therapies and interventions, this gives a checklist of questions that people may want to think about before using a particular approach. You can read the article here.

I hope that you find this useful.


March 29, 2012 - 4:28pm

Had a look at the site you suggested and found it really useful.  Thanks for your help.

Zoe Dietitian

July 05, 2012 - 9:22pm

Sorry I'm late to join this discussion - DAN! (Defeat Autism Now!) was the treatment protocol promoted by the Autism Research Institute in the US. The ARI is fully behind the premise that autism is treatable via diet, supplementation and detoxification. They actually stopped calling their approach DAN! in 2011 as they took on board that individuals on the spectrum found it offensive.  They also stopped listing practitioners that had attended their 3 day conference (and then could call themselves DAN! doctors).

In the UK the approach is seen as alternative and not generally supported in the mainstream.  As a dietitian I think the emerging evidence is encouraging and feel that we should be more open to trialling some aspects of dietary interventions with the right support, for those families who want to try them. 

Some DAN! doctors are medical doctors, but many are alternative therapists with variable training - and families should be fully aware of this.  I'm not sure they always are.

Hope that helps

Zoe (Registered Dietitian)

Bernard Fleming

July 11, 2012 - 10:43am

Hi folks.

Thanks for the mention of the Research Autism website, which was set up by the NAS and other organisations in order to provide exactly this kind of information about a range of therapies.

Zoe is quite right that there is an increasing body of evidence for some DAN approved biomedical interventions, such as omega-3 fatty acids, but still very little evidence for other biomedical interventions, such as Vitamin D etc. 

However different people will argue about how good that evidence is: for example the recent Cochrane Review of omega-3 reported 'Due to the limitations of evidence from uncontrolled studies and the presence of only one small randomized controlled trial, there is currently insufficient scientific evidence to determine if omega-3 fatty acids are safe or effective for ASD.'


Information Manager, Research Autism

July 12, 2012 - 11:18am

Hi Bernard

Is there any research with regards to iron supplements improving children's behaviour in Autism?  I know about it as very early research in other fields and wondered if there was any in Autism.



July 12, 2012 - 1:23pm

Hi Gillian

We have only identified one clinical trial of the use of iron as a treatment for children with autism, which is Dosman C. et al. (2007). Children with autism: effect of iron supplementation on sleep and ferritin. Pediatric Neurology. 36(3), pp. 152-158. This was a relatively high-quality study i.e. a controlled trial and the main outcome was an improvement in sleep. Read Abstract

We did find some other studies on iron in children with autism, most of which suggest that iron levels are below RDA levels in children with autism, as they are in fact in most neurotypical children. These studies include

Hergüner S, Keleşoğlu FM, Tanıdır C, Cöpür M. 2012. Ferritin and iron levels in children with autistic disorder.  Eur J Pediatr. 171(1):143-6

Latif A, Heinz P, Cook R. 2002. Iron deficiency in autism and Asperger syndrome.Autism. 6(1):103-14.

Cornish E. 2002.Gluten and casein free diets in autism: a study of the effects on food choice and nutrition. J Hum Nutr Diet. 2002 Aug;15(4):261-9. (Suggests that children who follow the GFCF diet may be short on essential nutrients, inc iron).

You will of course find studies which claim that too much iron is actually the cause of autism, like the study below

You might find it helpful to look at the following page on our website, where we try to list the most commonly used ‘Biomedical Treatments’ for autism including iron. We also list any relevant studies when we can find them.

If you know of any other treatments or studies we should add to this list please shout!

With best wishes


July 23, 2012 - 2:10pm

Anyone interested in this might find it helpful to read Martha Herberts new book "The Autism Revolution".  She explains that as we learn more about autism we are beginning to understand that whole body and brain systems are impacted - be it gut/immune/brain etc.  Whilst myriad individual tests (eg for coeliac disease, EEGs etc) might not meet the diagnostic criteria for a single condition/disease they often reveal atypcial functioning.  Overall, she hypothesizes that many systems function, but function in a sub-optimal way, and that when you put all sub optimal functions together the results can be quite devastating.  She recommends then that the treatment of any of the systems that are not functioning well can lead to (sometimes) significant improvements in quality of life.  To give an example many people with ASD have sub-clinical epilepsy and have responded very well to medication for that condition.  Diet and supplementation etc are all covered in her book.  Obviously no one type of diet/supplement is advocated for everyone because she advocates you respond to the individual.