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J Acad Nutr Diet. 2018 Oct;118(10):1943-1950. doi: 10.1016/j.jand.2018.05.005. Epub 2018 Jul 10.

Dietary Intake, Nutrient Status, and Growth Parameters in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder and Severe Food Selectivity: An Electronic Medical Record Review.



Food selectivity is common in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The clinical characteristics, however, of severe food selectivity in children with ASD is not well documented.


This study examined the demographic characteristics, anthropometric parameters, risk of nutritional inadequacy, dietary variety, and problematic mealtime behaviors in a sample of children with ASD with severe food selectivity.


The study involved a cross-sectional electronic medical record review. Data extraction followed a systematic protocol for data extraction.


Children (age 2 to 17 years) with ASD, severe food selectivity, and complete nutritional data who received a multidisciplinary evaluation at a specialty feeding clinic in the southeastern United States between January 2014 and January 2016. Criteria for severe food selectivity used in this clinical practice required complete omission of one or more food groups (eg, fruit, vegetable, protein, grain, dairy) or consuming a narrow range of items on a weekly basis (eg, five or fewer total food items).


Analyses examined demographic characteristics, dietary preferences, risk for nutritional inadequacies, anthropometric parameters, and problematic mealtime behaviors.


Of the 279 patients evaluated during the 24-month period, 70 children with ASD and severe food selectivity met inclusion criteria. Caregivers reported 67% of the sample (n=47) omitted vegetables and 27% omitted fruits (n=19). Seventy-eight percent consumed a diet at risk for five or more inadequacies. Risk for specific inadequacies included vitamin D (97% of the sample), fiber (91%) vitamin E (83%), and calcium (71%). Children with five or more nutritional inadequacies (n=55) were more likely to make negative statements during meals (P<0.05). Severe food selectivity was not associated with compromised growth or obesity.


Children with ASD and severe food selectivity may be at increased risk for nutritional inadequacies. Future research should examine causes, consequences, and remediation of severe food selectivity in this population.


Autism spectrum disorder; Avoidant or restrictive intake disorder; Food selectivity; Nutrition; Pediatric feeding disorders


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