Nutrition plays an integral role in living a healthy lifestyle. Many children and adults with autism face challenges that can make a nutritious diet especially difficult. Food sensitivities, gastroenterological issues and restricted or repetitive behaviors are just a few examples.
Autism Treatment Network Research on Nutrition
Researchers with the Autism Speaks ATN study nutrition and its influence on health, behavior and other areas of life. From this work, we know that, like many kids in the US, those with ASD often eat less healthy food than they should. Over half of children with ASD (56%) take vitamins to make up for this. Unfortunately, the multivitamins often have the vitamins and minerals that kids are already getting enough of. This leads to kids having too much of some vitamins and not enough of others. Even when kids take multivitamins, parents should watch how much vitamin D and calcium their child eats because both vitamins are important for bone health.
The strength and thickness of the bone (bone density) at the hip and lower back of boys with ASD is lower than in boys without ASD. Boys with autism and boys without autism are about the same size and weight, but boys with autism get less exercise than boys without autism. To help make bones stronger all kids with ASD need more exercise and need more protein (meats), calcium (milk products and leafy greens), and phosphorus (meats, milk, beans, and nuts).
Another important nutrient for children is iron because irons helps the body use oxygen and grow properly. Children with ASD are not more likely to be iron deficient than those without ASD, but it is still important to look for signs of iron deficiency. Signs include being more tired than usual, feeling dizzy and having skin that is paler and drier than usual.
*Disclaimer: This summary is based on research conducted by Autism Treatment Network (ATN) members. It is not a summary of the entire body of research literature available on this subject
We have compiled the resources below to help you and your family work to overcome these challenges.
Tool Kits from the Autism Speaks Autism Treatment Network
Advice from the Experts: Through the years we have asked some of the top experts in their fields to share helpful information on topics related to eating and nutrition. The posts are organized by topic below.