Observable essential fatty acid deficiency markers and autism spectrum disorder

Breastfeed Rev. 2014 Jul;22(2):21-6.


Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) has been associated with essential fatty acid (EFA) deficiencies, with some researchers theorising that dysregulation of phospholipid metabolism may form part of the biological basis for ASD. This pilot study compared observable signs of fatty acid status of 19 children with an ASD diagnosis to 23 of their typically developing siblings. A pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding history was also obtained from their parents, which included a measure of infant intake of fatty acid rich colostrum immediately post-partum. When considered within their family group, those infants not breastfed (with colostrum) within the first hour of life and who had a history of fatty acid deficiency symptoms were more likely to have an ASD diagnosis. Other variables such as formula use, duration of breastfeeding, gestational age and Apgar scores were not associated with group membership. The results of this study are consistent with previous research showing a relationship between fatty acid metabolism, breastfeeding and ASD such that early infant feeding practices and the influence this has on the fatty acid metabolism of the child may be a risk factor for ASD.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • Breast Feeding*
  • Child
  • Child Development Disorders, Pervasive / metabolism*
  • Child Development Disorders, Pervasive / prevention & control
  • Child, Preschool
  • Colostrum / metabolism*
  • Fatty Acids, Essential / deficiency*
  • Fatty Acids, Essential / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant Nutritional Physiological Phenomena
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Nutritive Value
  • Pilot Projects
  • Siblings


  • Biomarkers
  • Fatty Acids, Essential