Study Notes Eating Issues in Children With ASD

Children with autism spectrum disorders choosy but have similar calorie intake, growth as controls
By Eric Metcalf
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, July 19 (HealthDay News) -- Children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) appear to have feeding-related issues starting in infancy, and eat a less-varied diet starting at a young age, although their growth and energy intake are not impaired compared with children without ASD, according to research published online July 19 in Pediatrics.

Alan Emond, M.D., of the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom, and colleagues analyzed data from 79 children with ASD and 12,901 controls drawn from a longitudinal cohort study in which mothers enrolled during pregnancy. Data on the children's eating habits were collected at several points from 6 to 54 months of age.

The researchers found that infants later diagnosed with ASD were more likely to be described by their mothers as "slow feeders" at 6 months. From 15 to 54 months, children with ASD tended to be described as difficult to feed and very choosy. Starting at 15 months, the children with ASD consumed a less varied diet than the control children. They were more likely than children in the control group to eat different meals from their mothers starting at 24 months, and 8 percent of them had a special diet for "allergy" by 54 months. At 38 months, the groups had similar intake of energy, fat, carbohydrates, and protein, but the group with ASD took in less vitamin C and D. The groups had similar height, weight, and body mass index at 18 months and 7 years and similar hemoglobin concentrations at 7 years.

"Our results are consistent with those of recent descriptive studies that also found that, although the parents of children with ASD reported that they were picky eaters and resisted trying new foods, the measured nutrient intake of the children with ASD was similar to that of age-matched controls," the authors conclude.

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