Importance: Although the increased risk of obesity among individuals with autism has been well established, evidence on the association between autism, cardiometabolic disorders, and obesity remains inconclusive.
Objective: To examine the association between autism spectrum disorders and cardiometabolic diseases in a systematic review and meta-analysis.
Data sources: PubMed, Scopus, Web of Science, ProQuest, Embase, and Ovid databases were searched from inception through July 31, 2022, without restrictions on date of publication or language.
Study selection: Observational or baseline data of interventional studies reporting the prevalence of cardiometabolic risk factors (ie, diabetes, hypertension, dyslipidemia, atherosclerotic macrovascular disease) among children and/or adults with autism and matched with participants without autism were included.
Data extraction and synthesis: Screening, data extraction, and quality assessment were performed independently by at least 2 researchers. DerSimonian-Laird random-effects meta-analyses were performed using the meta package in R.
Main outcomes and measures: Relative risks (RRs) of diabetes, hypertension, dyslipidemia, and atherosclerotic macrovascular disease among individuals with autism were the primary outcomes. Secondary outcomes included the RR of type 1 and type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and peripheral vascular disease.
Results: A total of 34 studies were evaluated and included 276 173 participants with autism and 7 733 306 participants without autism (mean [range] age, 31.2 [3.8-72.8] years; pooled proportion [range] of female individuals, 47% [0-66%]). Autism was associated with greater risks of developing diabetes overall (RR, 1.57; 95% CI, 1.23-2.01; 20 studies), type 1 diabetes (RR, 1.64; 95% CI, 1.06-2.54; 6 studies), and type 2 diabetes (RR, 2.47; 95% CI, 1.30-4.70; 3 studies). Autism was also associated with increased risks of dyslipidemia (RR, 1.69; 95% CI, 1.20-2.40; 7 studies) and heart disease (RR, 1.46; 95% CI, 1.42-1.50; 3 studies). Yet, there was no significantly associated increased risk of hypertension and stroke with autism (RR, 1.22; 95% CI, 0.98-1.52; 12 studies; and RR, 1.19; 95% CI, 0.63-2.24; 4 studies, respectively). Meta-regression analyses revealed that children with autism were at a greater associated risk of developing diabetes and hypertension compared with adults. High between-study heterogeneity was a concern for several meta-analyses.
Conclusions and relevance: Results suggest that the associated increased risk of cardiometabolic diseases should prompt clinicians to vigilantly monitor individuals with autism for potential contributors, signs of cardiometabolic disease, and their complications.