Atypical eating habits are more common in children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) than typically developing (TD) peers. Feeding problems may lead to the double burden of specific nutrient deficiencies and excessive weight gain, with a consequent increase in obesity prevalence. The dietary intake of Italian preschoolers with ASD compared to their TD peers and the impact of their dietary choices on their weight status and relationship to food selectivity (FS) were investigated. Dietary patterns and their associations with body mass index (BMI) were evaluated in 65 children with ASD and 82 peers with TD aged 1.3–6.4 years. Eating habits were assessed with a modified version of a parent-rated semi-quantitative Food Frequency Questionnaire. Moreover, the prevalence of FS and possible links with dietary patterns and BMI were investigated in the ASD group. Children with ASD consumed significantly higher amounts of simple sugars, processed and ultra-processed carbohydrates, both low- and high-fat animal proteins, and lower amounts of vegetables and fruits compared to peers with TD. The obesity rate was 1.5% in children with TD and more than fourfold (6.2%) in children with ASD, although the difference between groups was not statistically significant. FS was significantly more frequent in children with ASD than in peers with TD. Children with ASD and FS showed significantly lower annual intakes of vegetable proteins and fiber (considered essential nutrients for a healthy diet) than children with ASD without FS. Our results showed that children with ASD showed different dietary habits than those with TD, with the higher consumption of energy-dense foods and lower amounts of food-sourced fibers, which could place them at increased risk to develop overweight, obesity, and micronutrient deficiencies later in life.

Dietary Patterns and Weight Status in Italian Preschoolers with Autism Spectrum Disorder and Typically Developing Children

Benedetta Raspini
;
Lauren Fiechtner;Hellas Cena
Supervision
2021

Abstract

Atypical eating habits are more common in children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) than typically developing (TD) peers. Feeding problems may lead to the double burden of specific nutrient deficiencies and excessive weight gain, with a consequent increase in obesity prevalence. The dietary intake of Italian preschoolers with ASD compared to their TD peers and the impact of their dietary choices on their weight status and relationship to food selectivity (FS) were investigated. Dietary patterns and their associations with body mass index (BMI) were evaluated in 65 children with ASD and 82 peers with TD aged 1.3–6.4 years. Eating habits were assessed with a modified version of a parent-rated semi-quantitative Food Frequency Questionnaire. Moreover, the prevalence of FS and possible links with dietary patterns and BMI were investigated in the ASD group. Children with ASD consumed significantly higher amounts of simple sugars, processed and ultra-processed carbohydrates, both low- and high-fat animal proteins, and lower amounts of vegetables and fruits compared to peers with TD. The obesity rate was 1.5% in children with TD and more than fourfold (6.2%) in children with ASD, although the difference between groups was not statistically significant. FS was significantly more frequent in children with ASD than in peers with TD. Children with ASD and FS showed significantly lower annual intakes of vegetable proteins and fiber (considered essential nutrients for a healthy diet) than children with ASD without FS. Our results showed that children with ASD showed different dietary habits than those with TD, with the higher consumption of energy-dense foods and lower amounts of food-sourced fibers, which could place them at increased risk to develop overweight, obesity, and micronutrient deficiencies later in life.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/11571/1444594
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