Children at Risk: Autism Spectrum Disorder| Volume 14, ISSUE 4, P408-414, July 2014

Prevalence of Overweight and Obesity in a Large Clinical Sample of Children With Autism



      Overweight and obesity are major pediatric public health problems in the United States; however, limited data exist on the prevalence and correlates of overnutrition in children with autism.


      Through a large integrated health care system's patient database, we identified 6672 children ages 2 to 20 years with an assigned ICD-9 code of autism (299.0), Asperger syndrome (299.8), and control subjects from 2008 to 2011 who had at least 1 weight and height recorded in the same visit. We calculated age-adjusted, sex-adjusted body mass index and classified children as overweight (body mass index 85th to 95th percentile) or obese (≥95th percentile). We used multinomial logistic regression to compare the odds of overweight and obesity between groups. We then used logistic regression to evaluate factors associated with overweight and obesity in children with autism, including demographic and clinical characteristics.


      Compared to control subjects, children with autism and Asperger syndrome had significantly higher odds of overweight (odds ratio, 95% confidence interval: autism 2.24, 1.74–2.88; Asperger syndrome 1.49, 1.12–1.97) and obesity (autism 4.83, 3.85–6.06; Asperger syndrome 5.69, 4.50–7.21). Among children with autism, we found a higher odds of obesity in older children (aged 12–15 years 1.87, 1.33–2.63; aged 16–20 years 1.94, 1.39–2.71) compared to children aged 6 to 11 years. We also found higher odds of overweight and obesity in those with public insurance (overweight 1.54, 1.25–1.89; obese 1.16, 1.02–1.40) and with co-occurring sleep disorder (obese 1.23, 1.00–1.53).


      Children with autism and Asperger syndrome had significantly higher odds of overweight and obesity than control subjects. Older age, public insurance, and co-occurring sleep disorder were associated with overweight or obesity in this population.


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