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Emphasis on nutrition needed for people with autism spectrum disorder

Posted:  Friday, July 24, 2015

The statistics on Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) show that 1 in 88 children in America have the disorder indicating a 78% rise in the incidence since 2002. Although it could also mean improved diagnostic abilities, what definitely needs improvement is their nutritional status. A recent review found that individuals with ASD may show poor nutritional status due to selective eating patterns as well as sensory sensitivity.

The review was published in the latest edition of Advances in Nutrition journal. The authors examined a number of early warning signs highlighted by nutrition scientists that could alert parents as well as healthcare providers to the possibility of ASD in children.

The following were some of the findings of the review:

- Research suggests that inadequate concentrations of folate, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12 could be possible nutritional biomarkers to identify ASD. In addition, abnormally accelerated growth rates in infants and children could also be considered as a signal of autism.

- Children with ASD could be malnourished due to selective eating patterns, limited food repertoire, fear of eating new or unfamiliar foods, hypersensitivity, and other mealtime behaviour issues. This would mean they require nutritional supplements or fortified foods to fill up the gap.

- Although not all results indicated so, weight monitoring studies of children with ASD revealed that they could be either categorised as overweight/obese or underweight compared to the general population. Unusual eating patterns and reduced opportunities for physical activity could be some of the reasons for these weight patterns.

The authors in their review noted that most of the studies were centered around children. However, with the rising prevalence of ASD among middle-aged and elderly people, there is a need for further studies that focus on their nutritional status too. The prevalence of ASD is rising and hence the authors suggest early detection and effective nutritional strategies to enable individuals with ASD to lead healthier lives.

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