Iron status in children with autism spectrum disorder

Pediatrics. 2012 Nov;130 Suppl 2(Suppl 2):S154-9. doi: 10.1542/peds.2012-0900M.


Background and objectives: Children with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) often have food selectivity and restricted diets, putting them at risk for nutritional deficiencies. Previous studies have demonstrated a high prevalence of iron deficiency (ID) in children with ASDs living in Wales, Canada, and Turkey. The objectives of this study were to determine the prevalence of ID and the adequacy of iron intake in children with ASD in the United States.

Methods: Participants (age 2-11 years recruited from the Autism Treatment Network Diet and Nutrition Study) completed a 3-day diet record (n = 368) and had laboratory measures of serum ferritin (SF), complete blood count, iron, total iron binding capacity, and transferrin saturation (TS) (n = 222).

Results: Of the 222 participants with laboratory data, 18 (8%) had SF <12 µg/L and 2 (1%) had ID defined by both low SF and TS (3 children with low SF had missing TS data). One subject had iron deficiency anemia. Fewer than 2% of subjects had iron intake below the estimated average requirement.

Conclusions: Although the determination of iron status is complex, these data do not support previous reports that children with ASD are at greater risk for ID than the general population; however, 8% percent of the sample did demonstrate low SF despite <2% of the sample demonstrating iron intake below the estimated average requirement. The prevalence of low SF may be an underestimate, because SF is an acute phase reactant and the study included no measure of inflammation.

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child Development Disorders, Pervasive / complications*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Deficiency Diseases / etiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Iron Deficiencies*
  • Male
  • Nutritional Status
  • Prevalence