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Obesity linked to autism spectrum disorders

30 Sep 2017
A higher than normal BMI is often a risk factor for many long-term health problems such as diabetes, hypertension, joint, heart and even liver problems.

There is a statistically significant link between autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and obesity, according to a new meta-analysis. In contrast, overweight appears to not be significantly correlated with ASD.

Pooled data from 15 articles, corresponding to 1,045,538 individuals with ASD, revealed that obesity was significantly more prevalent in ASD patients than in controls (odds ratio [OR], 1.84; 95 percent CI, 1.37 to 2.48; p<0.001).

In contrast, there was no significant difference in the prevalence of obesity between ASD patients and controls (OR, 1.07; 0.83 to 1.38; p=0.62). Studies showed significant heterogeneity (p<0.001 for both analyses) and were thus subjected to subgroup analysis.

For the relationship between obesity and ASD, subgroup analysis by study design (p=0.96), geographic location (p=0.27), method of determining ASD (p=0.18), method of measuring body mass index (BMI; p=0.13) or adjustment factors (p=0.5) showed that there were no significant differences between the corresponding subgroups.

On the other hand, for the relationship between overweight and ASD, significant differences between the study design (p=0.007), geographic location (p=0.008), method of determining ASD (p=0.05) and method of measuring BMI (p=0.002) subgroups were reported, suggesting that these factors contributed strongly to the heterogeneity in the initial analysis.

The current meta-analysis focused on studies that investigated the relationship between ASD, and obesity and overweight. Only those with case-control, cohort or cross-sectional designs were included. The databases of PubMed, Embase and the Cochrane Library were accessed.

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