Children with autism are more likely to develop a cardiometabolic disorder compared to kids living without the condition, a new study shows.

Research conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found that children with some form of autism spectrum disorder are at higher risk of being obese, which is associated with other conditions such as dyslipidaemia and diabetes.

Between 2009 and 2017, roughly one in 44 children from the age of three to 17 were diagnosed on the autism spectrum, the study has reported.

Top author Dr Chanaka N. Kahathuduwa said: “The evidence on the association between obesity and autism was quite ambiguous. A meta-analysis was needed to address this gap.”

During the meta-analysis, the team of scientists analysed 34 studies, which included 276,173 participants who were diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder and 7,733,306 who were not.

They found that the participants with autism spectrum disorder were more likely to develop type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes compared to those without the condition.

In addition, they identified that the participants with autism spectrum disorder were at higher risk of cardiovascular disease and dyslipidaemia.

Dr Kahathuduwa said: “We have established the associations between autism and obesity, as well as autism and cardiometabolic disease, including diabetes and dyslipidaemia.

“We don’t have data to support a conclusion that autism is causing these metabolic derangements, but since we know that a child with autism is more likely to develop these metabolic complications and derangements down the road, I believe physicians should evaluate children with autism more vigilantly and maybe start screening them earlier than the usual.”

Dr Kahathuduwa added: “Our findings should also be an eye opener for people with autism and parents of kids with autism to simply be mindful about the higher risk of developing obesity and metabolic complications.

“Then they can talk with their physicians about strategies to prevent obesity and metabolic disease.”

Dr Kahathuduwa concluded: “We have done some work with the ABIDE (Autism Brain Imaging Data Exchange) dataset regarding how neuroimaging shows the correlation between autism and obesity, but there is more work to be done.

“None of these studies would have been possible without the help of the wonderful mentors, collaborators and students as both TTUHSC and TTU who contributed in numerous ways, and who will continue their important efforts to move these studies forward.”

The study has been published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics.

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