Restricted diets and inadequate nutrient intake of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have been reported. This study examined the nutritional statuses of children with ASD and the relationships between their behaviors and nutritional intake. A total of 154 children with ASD (age = 5.21 ± 1.83 years) and 73 typically-developing (TD) children (age = 4.83 ± 0.84 years) from Chongqing, China, were enrolled. The severity of ASD was evaluated using the Childhood Autism Rating Scale (CARS). The serum ferritin, folate, vitamin B12, 25(OH) vitamin D, and vitamin A concentrations in the children with ASD were determined. All participants underwent anthropometric examinations, dietary assessments, and questionnaire assessments about their feeding behaviors, and gastrointestinal symptoms. The ZHA, ZWA, and ZBMIA were found to be significantly lower in the children with ASD compared with those without ASD. In addition, the percentages of children exhibiting severe picky eating and severe resistance to new foods, as well as those with a reported general impression of severe eating problems and constipation, were higher among the children with ASD. These children consumed significantly fewer macronutrients compared with the children without ASD. In addition, the children with ASD had the highest rate of vitamin A deficiency, followed by iron deficiency. After adjusting for sex, the vitamin A concentration was found to be negatively correlated with the CARS score (rs = -0.222, p = 0.021). No correlation between the ferritin, folate, vitamin D, or vitamin B12 concentration and the CARS score was found. These results suggest that reduced macronutrient intakes, severe feeding behavior issues, constipation, and vitamin A deficiency are quite common among children with ASD. Further, a low serum vitamin A level may be a risk factor for symptoms of ASD. However, the underlying mechanism should be further studied.
Keywords: autism spectrum disorders; biochemical assessment; mealtime behavior; nutrient intake; vitamin A.