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

ts between studies may be explained by the current research focusing on an older group of children, Dr. Zimmer said.

"The fatty acid docosahexanoic is linked to other mental health issues, and this raises questions about whether there are functional issues in neural cells involving a deficiency of essential fatty acids," said Dr. Zimmer. "The main point of the study is we cannot rule that fatty acids are part of the story of what is going on with kids who have autism."

Dr. Zimmer said its possible older children with autism have had more time to use up their bodies' stores of omega-3 fatty acids and are unable to replenish those stores. The 21 children with autism in this study were between the ages of 3 and 18 years, as were the 20 age-matched normally developing children and 10 of their siblings who served as control subjects.

The research team is conducting a larger study with more children to verify its PAS findings. Dr. Zimmer said another study is also under design to give essential omega-3 fatty acids, such as docosahexanonic acid, to children with autism to see what impact it has on brain chemistry and/or the disorder.

Increasing foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids in the diets of autistic children has been suggested by some researchers as potentially beneficial, Dr. Zimmer said. Although doing so would not have a negative impact on the children, until studies are conducted it isn't known what affect, if any, it might have, she added. Also, given the findings of the previous study on the lack of food variety among kids with autism, augmenting their diets could be challenging.

Most of the 19 autistic children in the food study had much lower food variety scores in their diets than typically developing children. A majority of the children with autism also suffered from nutritional deficiencies. The researchers concluded children with autism and low food variety scores a
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SOURCE Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center
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