Alison Presmanes Hill
To identify the rates of being overweight or obese in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder and to explore risk factors for unhealthy weight in the general population.
Methods - Sample, Procedure, Study Measures, Analysis
Measured values for height and weight were used to calculate Body-Mass Index (BMI) percentiles in 5053 children with ASD between the ages of 2 and 17. Being overweight was defined as being at least in the 85th percentile and being obese was defined as being at least in the 95th percentile.
Results – Main Finding(s)
Of the children with ASD, 33.6% were overweight and 18% were considered obese. This rate is comparable to that of all American children. However, the children with ASD showed higher levels of being overweight or obese at a younger age (2-5) and during adolescence (12-17). In the population of non-Hispanic Black children, no significant difference was found between those with ASD and their typically developing peers. Older age, Hispanic or Latino ethnicity, lower parent education levels, and sleep and mood problems were all predictors of obesity.
Conclusion – Summary Statement
The prevalence of being overweight or obese is significantly greater among children with ASD than the general population, especially between the ages of 2 and 5. Because obesity is more prevalent among older children in the general population, these findings raise the question of whether there are different paths of weight gain among children with ASD, possibly beginning in early childhood.