A large population study is needed to find the true links between autism and obesity, Carol Curtin, MSW, a research assistant professor at UMass Medical School, told SFARI Autism News.
“Most large nationally representative datasets do not include children with autism," said Curtin, who has focused some of her work on the association between disabilities and weight. Existing studies rely on limited data from parents, she said.
Until we know more about that link, doctors and parents of children with autism should focus on preventing obesity, Curtin said.
Curtin is the co-author of Obesity in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, an article in the April 2014 edition of the Harvard Review of Psychiatry. The article outlined risk factors and vulnerabilities leading to increased obesity among children with autism, including delayed motor development, sleep problems, side effects of antipsychotic medications and a picky palate.
The Eunice Kennedy Shriver Center, a unit within UMass Medical School’s Commonwealth Medicine division, is currently working on two nutrition-related pilot programs involving youth with disabilities. The Children's Mealtime Study is examining the eating patterns and mealtime behaviors of children 3 to 8 with or without intellectual disabilities and developmental delays. Health U aims to help overweight young people aged 15-22 with intellectual disabilities lose weight through group and individiual counseling.
Read the full story at: SFARI Autism News: Medical records find evidence linking autism to obesity.