Children with developmental delays, including autism spectrum disorder (ASD), are up to 50 per cent more likely to be overweight or obese compared with the general population, a study says.
Among children with ASD, those with a higher degree of impairment and more severe symptoms were at even greater risk of developing obesity by age five, showed the findings published online in The Journal of Pediatrics.
"These findings make it clear that monitoring these children for excess weight gain at an early age is critical, and that prevention efforts should be expanded to include not just children with ASD, but those with other developmental diagnoses, as well," said the study's lead author Susan Levy from Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, US.
The study included nearly 2,500 children between the ages of two and five years old. This age group is especially relevant, since it is an important window for early obesity prevention.
The research showed that children with ASD were 1.57 times more likely to be overweight or obese than the general population.
Children with developmental delays were 1.38 times more likely to be overweight or obese.
The risk for obesity was even more pronounced in children with severe ASD symptoms, as they were 1.7 times more likely to be classified as overweight or obese than children with mild ASD symptoms.