Comment on: Prevalence of overweight and obesity in a large clinical sample of children with autism

10 Jul

Medical comorbidities is a somewhat common topic of discussion in the autism communities. We don’t usually hear about neurological disorders other than epilepsy, or mental health conditions, even though these appear to be very prevalent in autistic youth.

Obesity is more common in autistic adults than non-autistics as is hypertension. And now a new study shows that the problems with overweight and obesity start in childhood. Autistic kids are twice as likely to be overweight and five times as likely to be obese as non autistic kids. The reason for this is not explored in this study. One obvious place to look is a lack of physical exercise and poor diet.

Prevalence of overweight and obesity in a large clinical sample of children with autism

BACKGROUND:
Overweight and obesity are major pediatric public health problems in the United States; however, limited data exist on the prevalence and correlates of overnutrition in children with autism.

METHODS:
Through a large integrated health care system’s patient database, we identified 6672 children ages 2 to 20 years with an assigned ICD-9 code of autism (299.0), Asperger syndrome (299.8), and control subjects from 2008 to 2011 who had at least 1 weight and height recorded in the same visit. We calculated age-adjusted, sex-adjusted body mass index and classified children as overweight (body mass index 85th to 95th percentile) or obese (≥95th percentile). We used multinomial logistic regression to compare the odds of overweight and obesity between groups. We then used logistic regression to evaluate factors associated with overweight and obesity in children with autism, including demographic and clinical characteristics.

RESULTS:
Compared to control subjects, children with autism and Asperger syndrome had significantly higher odds of overweight (odds ratio, 95% confidence interval: autism 2.24, 1.74-2.88; Asperger syndrome 1.49, 1.12-1.97) and obesity (autism 4.83, 3.85-6.06; Asperger syndrome 5.69, 4.50-7.21). Among children with autism, we found a higher odds of obesity in older children (aged 12-15 years 1.87, 1.33-2.63; aged 16-20 years 1.94, 1.39-2.71) compared to children aged 6 to 11 years. We also found higher odds of overweight and obesity in those with public insurance (overweight 1.54, 1.25-1.89; obese 1.16, 1.02-1.40) and with co-occurring sleep disorder (obese 1.23, 1.00-1.53).

CONCLUSIONS:
Children with autism and Asperger syndrome had significantly higher odds of overweight and obesity than control subjects. Older age, public insurance, and co-occurring sleep disorder were associated with overweight or obesity in this population.

Copyright © 2014 Academic Pediatric Association. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


By Matt Carey

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One Response to “Comment on: Prevalence of overweight and obesity in a large clinical sample of children with autism”

  1. Dr Mitzi Waltz July 17, 2014 at 15:19 #

    Another important place to look is the (over)presecription of anti-psychotic medications, such as Risperdal, which is very prevelant in the US, including to quite young children with autism (Risperdal was the first pharmaceutical therapy approved with an autism label attached, for “agitation in autism” i.e.as a chemical cosh to use when you can’t be bothered to find out why someone is agitated). It is well known to lead to metabolic disturbances and major weight gain, as well as an increased risk of diabetes etc. as a result.

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