Abnormal Eating Behaviors Are Common in Children with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder

J Pediatr. 2016 Feb;169:194-200.e1. doi: 10.1016/j.jpeds.2015.10.049. Epub 2015 Nov 19.


Objective: To compare the eating behaviors and nutrition-related concerns in children with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) with those in typically developing children.

Study design: A survey that assessed eating behaviors was completed between October 2013 and May 2014 by the caregivers of children screened for FASD at the University of Minnesota's Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders Program, and typically developing children recruited from that clinic or from the Research Participation Core of the Waisman Center, University of Wisconsin.

Results: Compared with controls (N = 81), children with FASD (N = 74) had delayed acquisition of self-feeding behavior (P < .001) and solid food introduction (P < .001). Impaired satiety was common and independent of medication use: 23.0% were never full/satisfied, 31.1% snacked constantly, and 27.0% concealed food (all P ≤ .002). They consumed the equivalent of an additional meal/snack daily (P < .01). Children with FASD were more likely to have a past diagnosis of underweight (P < .001). Mean body mass index was significantly reduced for males (P = .009) but not females (P = .775) with FASD, and only 2 children with FASD were currently underweight. Children with FASD were more physically active (P < .01).

Conclusions: Abnormal eating patterns are common in children with FASD and may contribute to their delayed growth and nutritional inadequacies. Their poor satiety may reflect poor impulse control. Children with FASD may benefit from diet counseling. Conversely, some children with hyperphagia may warrant referral for FASD screening.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Feeding Behavior*
  • Female
  • Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders* / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Male