Huffington Post reports on UMass Medical School research that finds children with autism at greater risk of obesity

Mar 13, 2014
Boy playing with blocks

UMass Medical School research has found that children with autism spectrum disorders are at equal or greater risk of developing obesity compared to their peers, according to a March 11 article in The Huffington Post.

“Kids with autism might have some unique risk factors that would make them more susceptible to weight gain,” said lead author, Carol Curtin, MSW, interim associate director of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver Center, a unit within UMass Medical School’s Commonwealth Medicine division.

“This is a consciousness-raising piece, as the problem of obesity in this population may not be on the radar screens of clinicians, researchers, or families because these children have so many other challenges," Curtin said. "Our work is focused on identifying and ultimately developing supportive approaches to modifying or ameliorating unique obesity risk factors for this population of children and their families."

The article in the most recent edition of the Harvard Review of Psychiatry, Obesity in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, was co-authored by Curtin; Mirjana Jojic, MD, Department of Psychiatry, UMass Medical School; and Linda G. Bandini, PhD, RD, associate professor of pediatrics, Eunice Kennedy Shriver Center, UMass Medical School. It outlined risk factors and vulnerabilities that lead to increased obesity among children with autism, including delayed motor development, sleep problems, side effects of antipsychotic medications and a picky palate.

Recommendations to help reduce and prevent  obesity in children with autism are described in the article, among them physicians referring parents and guardians to registered dietitians and prescribers issuing warning that certain medications could lead to weight gain. Enlisting the help of occupational therapists and behavioral psychologist could also resolve sensory and behavior issues that can contribute to food selectivity or meal-time problems.  

This special issue of the Harvard Review of Psychiatry was devoted to research related to austim spectrum disorders and was edited by Jean Frazier, MD, vice chair and director of UMass Medical School's Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Frazier, who co-authored the introduction, is also co-director of the Child and Adolescent Neurodevelopment Initiative (CANDI).

Read the full article at Huffington Post: More Children With Autism Are Going To College Than Ever Before (And 5 Other Key Findings)

Curtin's research article was also featured in an article posted by medicalxpress.com: What's new in autism spectrum disorder? Harvard Review of Psychiatry presents research update

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