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Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Volume 2012, Article ID 262136, 11 pages
Research Article

A Chan Dietary Intervention Enhances Executive Functions and Anterior Cingulate Activity in Autism Spectrum Disorders: A Randomized Controlled Trial

1Neuropsychology Laboratory, Department of Psychology, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shatin, NT, Hong Kong
2Integrative Neuropsychological Rehabilitation Center, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shatin, NT, Hong Kong
3Henan Songshan Research Institute for Chanwuyi, Henan 452470, China
4Department of Special Education and Counselling, The Hong Kong Institute of Education, Tai Po, Hong Kong
5Institute of Textiles and Clothing, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Kowloon, Hong Kong

Received 15 December 2011; Accepted 28 February 2012

Academic Editor: Lixing Lao

Copyright © 2012 Agnes S. Chan et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Executive dysfunctions have been found to be related to repetitive/disinhibited behaviors and social deficits in autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). This study aims to investigate the potential effect of a Shaolin-medicine-based dietary modification on improving executive functions and behavioral symptoms of ASD and exploring the possible underlying neurophysiological mechanisms. Twenty-four children with ASD were randomly assigned into the experimental (receiving dietary modification for one month) and the control (no modification) groups. Each child was assessed on his/her executive functions, behavioral problems based on parental ratings, and event-related electroencephalography (EEG) activity during a response-monitoring task before and after the one month. The experimental group demonstrated significantly improved mental flexibility and inhibitory control after the diet modification, which continued to have a large effect size within the low-functioning subgroup. Such improvements coincided with positive evaluations by their parents on social communication abilities and flexible inhibitory control of daily behaviors and significantly enhanced event-related EEG activity at the rostral and subgenual anterior cingulate cortex. In contrast, the control group did not show any significant improvements. These positive outcomes of a one-month dietary modification on children with ASD have implicated its potential clinical applicability for patients with executive function deficits.