The study, set to published in the May issue of Pediatrics, states there isn't enough research on the issue and that it deserves greater examination.
"We really searched high and low for good studies, and we only found 15 studies on this over 32 years," said study author William Sharp, a behavioral pediatric psychologist at the Emory University School of Medicine, in Atlanta.
The news comes a year after a related study revealed children with autism have a greater risk of being nutritionally deficit and are at a significant risk for eating issues. That study revealed children dealing with autism spectrum disorders are likely to have five more times the feeding problems compared to non-autistic children. The autistic child is also likely to experience tantrums during meals, have ritualistic mealtime behavior and suffer from severe food selectivity.
All these issues play into an autistic child's nutritional health and development. A review of dietary nutrients reveals autistic children have a significantly lower intake of protein and calcium.
As with the general population, healthy eating is a vital aspect to an autistic child's overall development from physical growth to mental growth. Poor nutrition can lead to poor scholastic achievements as well as social deficits.
"The results of this study have broad implications for children with autism," said Sharp, who also conducted last year's nutritional study. "It not only highlights the importance of assessing mealtime concerns as part of routine health care screenings, but also suggests the need for greater focus on diet and nutrition in the autism community."
The current study stresses that gastrointestinal issues are not a potential cause of autism but that the prevalent condition demands further scientific investigation.
"This is something that is a prominent concern for kids with autism, and that we should refocus our scientific endeavors to get an evidence-based approach for assessment and treatment of these kids," said Sharp, who specializes in feeding problems in children with autism.
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