Date of Award

Summer 8-5-2016

Degree Type

Thesis

Department

Nutrition

First Advisor

Dr. Anita Nucci

Second Advisor

Dr. Sarah Henes

Third Advisor

Rashelle Berry

Abstract

Background: The prevalence of feeding difficulties in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) has been observed to be from 46% to 89%. Children who have both ASD and feeding difficulties such as food selectivity may not be meeting their nutritional requirements, particularly micronutrient needs. Previous research that has examined the adequacy of micronutrient intake in this population has been inconsistent.

Objective: The purpose of the study was to examine the micronutrient intake and food group acceptance of a population of children diagnosed with both ASD and food selectivity.

Participants/Setting: A cohort study was conducted in 21 children with a diagnosis of both ASD and food selectivity who were evaluated at the Pediatric Feeding Disorders Program of the Marcus Autism Center between August 2015 and February 2016. Demographic, anthropometric and nutrient intake data from a three-day food record were retrospectively reviewed.

Statistical Analysis: Frequency statistics were used to describe the demographic and anthropometric characteristics of the population as well as compare food group acceptance and micronutrient intake for 28 nutrients to the estimated average requirement (EAR). For those micronutrients that do not have an established EAR, an adequate intake (AI) was used. The Chi-square statistic was used to evaluate the association between food group consumption status and whether or not the child met the EAR/AI for select micronutrients.

Results: The majority of the population were male (91%) with a mean age of 7 + 4 years. None of the micronutrient EARs/AIs were met by all children. Less than 50% of the population met the EAR/AI for 11 nutrients while >50% but <100% of the children met the EAR/AI for 14 nutrients. No child met the EAR/AI for chromium, fluoride or potassium. Children who consumed fruit were significantly more likely to meet the EAR for vitamin C vs. those who did not eat fruit (86% vs. 14%, respectively; p=0.017). No other associations between micronutrient intake and food group acceptance were observed.

Conclusion: Children with ASD and food selectivity may not be meeting the dietary micronutrient intake recommendations. Further studies should be conducted with larger study populations to examine the micronutrient deficiency status of children with ASD and food selectivity.

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