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Risk Factors for Unhealthy Weight Gain and Obesity Among Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder


Risk Factors for Unhealthy Weight Gain and Obesity Among Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder

Khushmol K Dhaliwal et al. Int J Mol Sci.


Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a developmental disorder characterized by social and communication deficits and repetitive behaviors. Children with ASD are also at a higher risk for developing overweight or obesity than children with typical development (TD). Childhood obesity has been associated with adverse health outcomes, including insulin resistance, diabetes, heart disease, and certain cancers. Importantly some key factors that play a mediating role in these higher rates of obesity include lifestyle factors and biological influences, as well as secondary comorbidities and medications. This review summarizes current knowledge about behavioral and lifestyle factors that could contribute to unhealthy weight gain in children with ASD, as well as the current state of knowledge of emerging risk factors such as the possible influence of sleep problems, the gut microbiome, endocrine influences and maternal metabolic disorders. We also discuss some of the clinical implications of these risk factors and areas for future research.

Keywords: ASD; Autism spectrum disorder; BMI; Body mass index; Obesity; Overweight.

Conflict of interest statement

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


Figure 1
Figure 1
Risk factors for becoming obese or overweight among individuals with ASD. Primary factors include risk factors which have been directly implicated in obesity and/or unhealthy weight gain, in children with ASD. Secondary factors are those which are not specific to children with ASD but could result in unhealthy weight gain. Emerging factors are those on which we have postulated hypotheses based on indirect evidence. *Created with BioRender.

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