Comparison of nutritional status between children with autism spectrum disorder and typically developing children in the Mediterranean Region (Valencia, Spain)

Autism. 2017 Apr;21(3):310-322. doi: 10.1177/1362361316636976. Epub 2016 Jul 8.


This case-control study investigated nutrient intake, healthy eating index with 10 items on foods and nutrients, on 3-day food diaries and anthropometric measurements in 105 children with autism spectrum disorder and 495 typically developing children (6-9 years) in Valencia (Spain). Children with autism spectrum disorder were at a higher risk for underweight, eating more legumes, vegetables, fiber, and some micronutrients (traditional Mediterranean diet) but fewer dairy and cereal products, and less iodine, sodium, and calcium than their typically developing peers. Differences existed in total energy intake but healthy eating index and food variety score differences were not significant. Autism spectrum disorder group failed to meet dietary recommendations for thiamin, riboflavin, vitamin C, or calcium. Risk of inadequate intake of fiber, vitamin E, and sodium was lower in children with autism spectrum disorder than typically developing children. Results suggest that (1) risk of inadequate intake of some micronutrients in children with autism spectrum disorder and (2) cultural patterns and environment may influence food intake and anthropometric characteristics in autism spectrum disorder. Primary care should include anthropometric and nutritional surveillance in this population to identify intervention on a case-by-case basis. Future research should explore dietary patterns and anthropometric characteristics in different autism spectrum disorder populations in other countries, enhancing our understanding of the disorder's impact.

Keywords: autism; autism spectrum disorder; feeding assessment; growth; healthy eating index; nutrition.

MeSH terms

  • Autism Spectrum Disorder / complications
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder / epidemiology*
  • Body Mass Index
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Child
  • Diet, Healthy / statistics & numerical data
  • Feeding Behavior
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Nutritional Status*
  • Spain / epidemiology
  • Thinness / complications
  • Thinness / epidemiology