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Brief Research Report ARTICLE Provisionally accepted The full-text will be published soon. Notify me

Front. Psychiatry | doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2019.00528

Lack of associations between dietary intake and gastrointestinal symptoms in autism spectrum disorder

  • 1Department of Health Psychology, School of Health Professions, University of Missouri, United States
  • 2Thompson Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders, University of Missouri, United States
  • 3Department of Radiology, School of Medicine, University of Missouri, United States
  • 4Marist College, United States
  • 5School of Medicine, University of Missouri, United States
  • 6Department of Psychological Sciences, College of Arts and Science, University of Missouri, United States
  • 7Vanderbilt University Medical Center, United States
  • 8Medical Exploration of Neurodevelopmental Disorders, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, United States
  • 9Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital, United States
  • 10Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology, Boston University School of Medicine, United States
  • 11Department of Psychiatry, Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University Irving Medical Center, United States
  • 12Department of Child Health, School of Medicine, University of Missouri, United States
  • 13Department of Neurology, School of Medicine, University of Missouri, United States
  • 14Department of Radiology, School of Medicine, University of Missouri, United States

Background: Many individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have significant gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms, but their etiology is currently unknown. Our prior work showed that GI symptoms correlated with stress reactivity, but the question remained as to the potential role of variations in diet in this relationship. Many families modify the diet of children with ASD, including diets with increased omega-3 fatty acids or diets free of gluten and/or casein, which may also impact GI symptoms and nutrition. However, little is known about the relationship between nutritional intake and GI symptomatology in ASD. The objective of this study was to assess the relationships between GI symptoms, omega-3 intake, micronutrients, and macronutrients in children with ASD.

Methods: A total of 120 children diagnosed with ASD participated in this multisite study. A food frequency questionnaire was completed by the patient’s caretaker. The USDA Food Composition Database was utilized to provide nutritional data for the food items consumed by each participant. GI symptomatology was assessed using a validated questionnaire on pediatric gastrointestinal symptoms.

Results: There were no significant associations between GI symptoms and the amount of omega-3 fatty acids and/or other micro and macro nutrients contained in the diet.

Conclusions: This study suggests that dietary variations do not appear to drive GI symptoms, nor do GI symptoms drive dietary variations in those with ASD; although causation cannot be determined with this observational assessment. Further, there may be other factors associated with lower GI tract symptoms in ASD, such as increased stress response.

Keywords: Autism (ASD), Gastrointestinal symptoms, dietary intake, Omega - 3 fatty acids, Micro and macro nutrients

Received: 20 Mar 2019; Accepted: 04 Jul 2019.

Edited by:

Emily L. Casanova, School of Medicine Greenville, University of South Carolina, United States

Reviewed by:

Paul Whiteley, ESPA Research
Paul E. Shattock, ESPA Research, The Robert Luff Laboratory, United Kingdom  

Copyright: © 2019 Ferguson, Dovgan, Severns, Famuliner, Marler, Gross Margolis, Bauman, Veenstra-VanderWeele, Sohl and Beversdorf. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Dr. Bradley J. Ferguson, Department of Health Psychology, School of Health Professions, University of Missouri, Columbia, United States, fergusonbj@health.missouri.edu