The impact of abnormal feeding behaviors reported for children with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) on their nutritional status is unknown. We compared nutrient intake from food consumed by children with and without ASD and examined nutrient deficiency and excess.
Prospective 3-day food records and BMI for children (2–11 years) with ASD participating in the Autism Treatment Network (Arkansas, Cincinnati, Colorado, Pittsburgh, and Rochester) were compared with both the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey data and a matched subset based on age, gender, family income, and race/ethnicity (N = 252 analyzed food records).
Children with ASD and matched controls consumed similar amounts of nutrients from food. Only children with ASD aged 4 to 8 years consumed significantly less energy, vitamins A and C, and the mineral Zn; and those 9 to 11 years consumed less phosphorous. A greater percentage of children with ASD met recommendations for vitamins K and E. Few children in either group met the recommended intakes for fiber, choline, calcium, vitamin D, vitamin K, and potassium. Specific age groups consumed excessive amounts of sodium, folate, manganese, zinc, vitamin A (retinol), selenium, and copper. No differences were observed in nutritional sufficiency of children given restricted diets. Children aged 2 to 5 years with ASD had more overweight and obesity, and children 5 to 11 years had more underweight.
Children with ASD, like other children in America, consume less than the recommended amounts of certain nutrients from food. Primary care for all children should include nutritional surveillance and attention to BMI.