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ASPartOfMe
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18 Sep 2018, 12:16 am

Research adds heft to link between autism and obesity

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Nearly half of American children with autism aged 10 to 17 are overweight or obese, compared with less than one-third of their typically developing peers, according to a new study1. And those with the most severe autism features appear to be at the greatest risk of being obese.

The study, based on data from nearly 26,000 children, is among the largest of its type. A 2010 analysis looked at weight in 85,000 children, including 483 with autism, in the United States2.

The findings confirm a pattern reported by other studies, says lead investigator Seán Healy, assistant professor of behavioral health and nutrition at the University of Delaware in Newark. Of the 21 studies on this topic published since 2012, 16 indicated that children on the spectrum are at an increased risk of obesity.

Most of those studies did not look at autism severity, however. The new study found that the risk of obesity is highest among the children with the most severe autism features. The results appeared 13 August in Autism.

A second paper published in the same issue of the journal suggests that children with autism are more likely to gain weight rapidly during infancy than their typical peers3. And those who do are the most likely to be overweight or obese at 2 to 5 years of age.

Healy and his colleagues analyzed data for 750 children with autism and 25,173 typical children aged 10 to 17 years. The data were collected in 2016 as part of the National Survey of Children’s Health.

Parents completed a questionnaire about various aspects of their child’s health, including height, weight, autism diagnosis, severity of autism features and medication use. The researchers used a statistical method to extrapolate the responses to represent a population-sized sample containing 875,963 children with autism and nearly 32 million typical children.

They calculated that 19.4 percent of children with autism in this projected sample were overweight, and 23 percent were obese. (Overweight is defined as having a body mass index between the 85th and 95th percentile for the age group, and obesity is greater than the 95th percentile.) By comparison, about 15 percent of typical children were overweight, and 16 percent were obese.

After controlling for race, ethnicity, income, age and sex, the researchers estimate that children with autism have 1.48 times the odds of being overweight, and 1.49 times the odds of being obese, compared with their typical peers.

Among autistic children, those with severe autism traits — based on parent reports — are more than three times as likely to be obese as those with milder traits. This subset of children may be at increased risk of obesity because they tend to be less active and have more restricted diets than other autistic children.

However, some experts say the results should be interpreted with caution because they rely solely on parent ratings. “It will be important for future studies to replicate these findings using standardized criteria for [autism] severity,” Kral says.

t is unclear why children with autism are more likely than their peers to be overweight or obese. Some medications prescribed for autism have been linked to weight gain, but medication use does not track with weight in the new study.

The risk may originate early in life, according to the second study. Maternal obesity and rapid weight gain during infancy are known risk factors for obesity in typical children, but their role in autism has been unclear.


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RetroGamer87
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18 Sep 2018, 1:31 am

Eating is the new stimming.


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EzraS
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18 Sep 2018, 1:55 am

Autistic people probably eat a lot of comfort food.



pete413
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18 Sep 2018, 5:23 am

Things like this just generalize and stereotype.
I am not obese, nowhere near that, never have been.

We need to shy away from all the "autistics are like this: and autistics are like that:" talk.

This is just yet ANOTHER "study", a group of academics who need to justify their grant money.

The food supply is tainted, it is scientifically engineered (by the same folks from the tobacco industry) to be more 'addictive'. The whole population is having weight problems.

But the likely culprit here is medications. Weight gain is a common side effect for many psych meds.



EzraS
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18 Sep 2018, 7:06 am

Psych meds seems like an even more likely culprit. But yeah lots of people come up with studies to generate cash and I take many of them with a grain of salt.



hobojungle
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18 Sep 2018, 8:31 am

I wonder how many of the parents are overweight too?



BeaArthur
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18 Sep 2018, 9:52 am

Down with the anti-science faction!

The study as cited in the OP does a number of things right, including using controls, referencing and extending prior research, and giving an appropriate description of the study's limitations.

In short: autistic kids are more likely to become obese adults, and the more severe the autism symptoms, the likelier that is.

No one said "ALL autistics are overweight/obese." The study never said that. Don't misquote without reading thoughtfully and carefully. And having read thoughtfully and carefully, don't misquote then, either.


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ASPartOfMe
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18 Sep 2018, 9:56 am

Deny, Deny, Deny.

In every Autism support group I have ever attended the percentage of overweight and obese people was a lot higher then the general population. Same is true for videos.

Higher then average and way higher then average does not mean every autistic.

I am not saying it is the autism per se but people who are depressed, do not want to or are afraid to socialize because consistent bad experiences tend to stay home and be sedentary and use too much food to ease the pain.
Hyperfocusing on special interests can result in the same behavoirs.


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AspieUtah
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18 Sep 2018, 10:06 am

I must not be autistic, then. After all, I weigh about 120 lbs. at 5'7". Malabsorption is a big problem for me. I can eat anything and as much as I choose, but I don't gain an ounce.

I remember that Kaiser Permanente presented its finding of weight gain among autists during the 2015 IMfAR International Meeting for Autism Research conference. The presentation had a lot of data, but focused primarily on weight gain among autists. I don't remember if any causes or remedies were discussed, so it was probably original research.


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WallflowerAsparagus
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18 Sep 2018, 10:17 am

I've been naturally underweight nearly my whole life and also suffered anorexia on top of that. I am very petite and 5'7.
It has only been in the last two to three years that I have been able to reach 50kg.

I have known other Aspies who found it incredibly hard to gain any weight until they hit their 30's.


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VegetableMan
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18 Sep 2018, 11:32 am

I guess people who are on the spectrum are more prone to self medicating with food, drugs, and alcohol. Say it ain't so!

Honestly, I'll bet you'll find an even larger percentage of those who fall into the obese category coming from families of lower economic means and education. And there have been some compelling studies showing a link between I.Q. and obesity. But hey, we don't want to go there, do we?


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Aspiegaming
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18 Sep 2018, 11:32 am

I started growing a food gut several years ago.


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18 Sep 2018, 5:15 pm

I've always had a problem with weight fluctuation. :roll:

At last check, I weighed around 200 LBS, which put me about 30-40 LBS overweight.


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jimmy m
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18 Sep 2018, 8:24 pm

I was obese and it was affecting my health severely. As a result I had gastric bypass surgery and lost 120 pounds in about 8 months. All my adverse medical conditions went into remission. That was 5 years ago and I am pleased with the results.



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18 Sep 2018, 10:26 pm

I certainly became a butter ball in junior high, and have been fighting the battle of the bulge ever since.


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