Original Article

Obesity and Severe Obesity in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder: Prevalence and Risk Factors

Authors: Du Pham, MD, Sofia Silver, MD, Sierra Haq, MD, S. Shahrukh Hashmi, MD, PhD, Mona Eissa, MD, PhD


Objective: Research suggests a high prevalence of obesity in children with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs), but the prevalence of severe obesity and its association with risk factors unique to this population remain undetermined. This study sought to compare the prevalence of severe obesity in children with ASDs to that of the general population and investigated associated risk factors for obesity in this population.

Methods: A chart review was done on 592 patients with ASDs seen between 2013 and 2017 at a center in Houston, Texas. The prevalence of obesity in the study population was compared with 2013–2016 national data. Univariable, multivariable, and stratified analyses were performed to determine the association between risk factors and body mass index.

Results: The prevalence of obesity and severe obesity in our study population was similar to those reported in the general population. When stratified by age, children with ASDs ages 6 to 11 years had a significantly higher prevalence of severe obesity than the general population.

Conclusions: The prevalence of severe obesity in children with ASDs was higher with increasing age, and in the 6- to 11-year-old age group, was significantly higher than in the general population. Healthcare providers should address diet and exercise early as part of a comprehensive management plan for children with ASDs.


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