PAS: Nutrition, Metabolic Issues in Autism Examined

Children with autism have less food variety and more nutritional, metabolic issues

MONDAY, May 4 (HealthDay News) -- Autistic children may be at risk for serious nutritional deficiencies and may have significantly different red blood cell fatty acid composition than non-autistic children, according to research presented at the annual meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies, held from May 2 to 5 in Baltimore.

Michelle Zimmer, M.D., of the Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, and colleagues presented two studies. The first compared food variety scores from 19 autistic children and 20 controls. The children with autism had decreased food variety compared to controls (37 versus 53 foods per month), and 89 percent of the autistic children with a low food variety score were found to have a serious nutritional deficiency versus 11 percent of autistic children with normal food variety.

In the second study, the researchers compared red blood cell and plasma fatty acid composition in 21 autistic children ages 3 to 18, 10 of their non-autistic siblings, and 20 age-matched controls. Although there were no group differences in dietary intake, the researchers found that the autistic children had significantly lower levels of red blood cell docosahexanoic acid (2.15 versus 3.9) and total omega-3 fatty acids (3.1 versus 5.3). They also found that autistic children showed a trend toward higher red blood cell levels of monounsaturated fatty acids (15.4 versus 14.2). They observed no group differences in plasma fatty acid composition.

"Our results provide some evidence for the hypothesis of abnormal fatty acid metabolism in children with autism," the authors conclude. "Further study into brain fatty composition, metabolism and its role in the pathophysiology of autism is warranted."

Abstracts (registration may be required)

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