Relation of childhood gastrointestinal disorders to autism: nested case-control study using data from the UK General Practice Research Database

BMJ. 2002 Aug 24;325(7361):419-21. doi: 10.1136/bmj.325.7361.419.


Objectives: To assess whether children with autism are more likely to have a history of gastrointestinal disorders than children without autism.

Design: Nested case-control study.

Setting: UK General Practice Research Database.

Subjects: Children born after 1 January 1988 and registered with the General Practice Research Database within 6 months of birth.

Outcome measures: Chronic inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract, coeliac disease, food intolerance, and recurrent gastrointestinal symptoms recorded by the general practitioner.

Results: 9 of 96 (9%) children with a diagnosis of autism (cases) and 41 of 449 (9%) children without autism (matched controls) had a history of gastrointestinal disorders before the index date (the date of first recorded diagnosis of autism in the cases and the same date for controls). The estimated odds ratio for a history of gastrointestinal disorders among children with autism compared with children without autism was 1.0 (95% confidence interval 0.5 to 2.2).

Conclusions: No evidence was found that children with autism were more likely than children without autism to have had defined gastrointestinal disorders at any time before their diagnosis of autism.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Autistic Disorder / etiology*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Celiac Disease / complications
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Chronic Disease
  • Female
  • Food Hypersensitivity / complications
  • Gastroenteritis / complications
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / complications*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Odds Ratio
  • Recurrence