Tuesday 13 November 2018

SEED says... risk of overweight/obesity in autism is heightened

SEED - The Study to Explore Early Development - provides yet more discussion fodder today as I bring the findings reported by Susan Levy and colleagues [1] to the blogging table. This time around the focus was on the risk of being overweight and/or obese in relation to a diagnosis of autism and the conclusion that: "Prevention of excess weight gain in children with ASD [autism spectrum disorder], especially those with severe symptoms, and in children with developmental delays/disorders represents an important target for intervention" on the basis of results observed.

It's not exactly a new thing to observe that those diagnosed with autism are perhaps at a greater risk of being overweight and/or obese (see here). There are a multitude of possible reasons behind such statistics covering everything from research showing those on the autism spectrum to typically be more sedentary than peers (see here) (bearing in mind the idea that 'you can't outrun a bad diet'), to a heightened risk of receiving medicines that list weight issues as a side-effect (see here) to a possible role for over-represented comorbidity (see here) with regard to weight issues. The net results however is the same: being diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder places someone at a heightened risk of being overweight or obese.

Levy et al compared three groups of young children - "2-5 years of age" - classified by a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or developmental delay/disorder or classed as a general population controls (i.e. asymptomatic). Importantly they describe how height and weight were "measured during a clinical visit" thus removing the reliance on 'at home' or routine records measurements [2] and the risk of bias that they can sometimes bring. Researchers also gathered background information on various co-occurring conditions/diagnoses.

Results: "The odds of overweight/obesity were 1.57 times... higher in children with ASD than general population controls and 1.38 times... higher in children with developmental delays/disorders than general population controls." One needs to be bear in mind the quite young age of participants when putting that last sentence into some context. Also: "Among children with ASD, those with severe ASD symptoms were 1.7 times... more likely to be classified as overweight/obese compared with children with mild ASD symptoms."

There's little more to say about such findings other than autism or autistic traits, yet again, seems to place someone as a quite significant disadvantage when it comes to their physical health and wellbeing. Now, the important question: what can be done about it?


[1] Levy SE. et al. Relationship of Weight Outcomes, Co-Occurring Conditions, and Severity of Autism Spectrum Disorder in the Study to Explore Early Development. The Journal of Pediatrics. 2018. 9 Oct.


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