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Autism Linked to Some Gastrointestinal Symptoms

Children with autism have significantly increased incidence of constipation and feeding issues

MONDAY, July 27 (HealthDay News) -- Children with autism may be more likely to have an increased incidence of gastrointestinal symptoms, according to a study in the August issue of Pediatrics.

Samar H. Ibrahim, of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., and colleagues studied 124 children diagnosed with autism and 248 matched controls. They looked at gastrointestinal diagnoses before 21 years of age.

After following cases and controls to median ages of 18.2 and 18.7 years, respectively, the researchers found that cases had a significantly higher cumulative incidence of constipation (33.9 versus 17.6 percent) and feeding issues/food selectivity (24.5 versus 16.1 percent). However, they also found that there was no significant association between autism case status and the overall incidence of gastrointestinal symptoms or with other symptoms such as diarrhea, abdominal bloating, discomfort or irritability, or gastroesophageal reflux or vomiting.

"Ibrahim et al are to be commended for a well-performed study, with which they attempt to put to rest the nagging suggestion that there exists a link between autism and gastrointestinal disease," state the authors of an accompanying editorial. "Unfortunately, there is more work to be done. As Ibrahim et al suggested, there may indeed be subgroups with pervasive developmental disorder that need much closer inspection (e.g., girls with Rett syndrome, who manifest clear gastrointestinal abnormalities such as gastroesophageal reflux and possibly esophageal dysmotility)."

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