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Lack of Food Variety Puts Kids With Autism at Risk for Poor Nutrition
Date:5/5/2009

Two Studies at PAS Suggest Food Variety and Cognition-Related Fatty Acid are Important to Well Being of Affected Children

CINCINNATI, May 5 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The strong preference kids with autism have for certain foods places them at risk for nutritional deficiencies because their diets lack sufficient variety, according to research from Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center at this year's Pediatric Academic Societies meeting in Baltimore.

After presenting their findings on May 4, the researchers said screening children for the amount of variety of food in their diets may be a good clinical marker to predict which children might be at risk for nutrition problems. Kids with low food variety scores who are at risk could then be referred to dieticians or therapists to help them expand food choices and improve nutrition, said Michelle Zimmer, M.D., lead investigator and a pediatrician in the division of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics at Cincinnati Children's.

The study is one of two presented by Dr. Zimmer and colleagues this year at PAS that deal with autism, the second one showing that the red blood cells of children with autism have low levels of a fatty acid linked to cognitive function. This finding, the researchers report, warrants further research into how the low fatty acid levels may trigger biochemical changes in the brain linked to autism.

The team found that levels of docosahexanoic acid and total omega-3 fatty acids were significantly lower in the red blood cells of autistic children than in normally developing children. Omega-3 fatty acids are nutritionally important substances considered vital to the normal development of children.

Evidence of abnormal fatty acid metabolism in children with autism runs counter to at least one previous study that suggested no difference between normally developing and autistic children. The different resul
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SOURCE Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center
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