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Nutrient Intake And Obesity In Children With Autism

Helena H. Ho, Linda C. Eaves, Diana Peabody
Published 1997 · Psychology
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Many children with autism have idiosyncratic food preferences and eating habits that are difficult to regulate. The nutrient intake of 54 school-age Canadian children with autistic spectrum disorders, at mean age 13.3 years, was assessed using 3-day food consumption diaries compiled by parents or caregivers. The food records were analyzed for energy, minerals, vitamins, carbohydrates, protein, and fat content and compared with the recommended nutrient intake (RNI) for Canadians. All children had adequate protein intake, but only the diets of 4 children (7.4%) met the recommended servings from each food group recommended by the Canadian Food Guide. Twenty children (37%) with adequate vitamin intake received additional vitamin supplement, and 18 children (33%) not supplemented were low in calcium intake. The entire group consumed more carbohydrates and less fat than the average Canadian child but had similar calorie intake. Twenty-three children (42.6%) were found to be obese (to have greater than 120% of ideal body weight), but only five of these were overeating. Nearly half of the obese children had a low level of activity. Obesity was found to be correlated positively with severity of autism but not with gender, parents' educational levels, intake of various food groups, or with overeating alone.
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