Background: The purpose of this study was to identify rates of overweight and obesity in young children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and factors related to overweight.
Methods: Retrospective chart reviews were conducted for 273 children with ASD [i.e., autistic disorder, Asperger's disorder, pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS)] after receiving outpatient services with a developmental pediatrician or the developmental team at a children's hospital. Information on child demographics, height and weight, medications prescribed, and adaptive functioning was collected from charts.
Results: Rates of overweight and obesity in children with ASD were found to be above nationally representative prevalence estimates for children. Among children with autistic disorder, 17.16% had a body mass index (BMI) percentile in the overweight range and 21.89% had a BMI percentile in the obese range. For children with Asperger's disorder/PDD-NOS, 12.50% were considered overweight and 10.58% were considered obese. Neither psychotropic medications prescribed nor adaptive functioning was found to be related to whether the child was overweight or obese.
Conclusions: Children with ASD are at risk for overweight and obesity, and children with autistic disorder are at greater risk for weight problems than children with Asperger's disorder/PDD-NOS. Further research is needed to identify factors related to overweight in children with ASD.