AUTHORS: Babinska, K., Celusakova, H., Belica, I., Szapuova, Z., Waczulikova, I., Nemcsicsova, D., Tomova, A., Ostatnikova, D.

ABSTRACT: Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are characterized by impairments in social interaction, communication, and restricted, stereotyped behavior. Gastrointestinal (GI), nutritional, and feeding problems are often reported in ASD. We investigated the prevalence of GI symptoms, food selectivity, and mealtime difficulties, and their associations with dietary interventions, food supplement use, and behavioral characteristics in a sample involving 247 participants with ASD and 267 controls aged 2–18 years. Data were collected by a questionnaire. GI symptoms were observed in 88.9% of children and adolescents with ASD, more often in girls than in boys. High rates of food selectivity (69.1%) and mealtime problems (64.3%) were found. Food supplements were used by 66.7% of individuals, mainly vitamins/minerals, probiotics, and omega-3 fatty acids. In the ASD sample, 21.2% of subjects followed a diet, mostly based on gluten and milk restriction, including individuals exhibiting food selectivity. Frequency of GI symptoms, food selectivity, and mealtime problems correlated weakly, but significantly with behavioral characteristics in the ASD group, but not with food supplement use. The study demonstrated that higher frequency of GI symptoms, food selectivity, and mealtime problems are a common problem in pre-schoolers, schoolchildren, and adolescents with ASD, and together with dietary modification, they are significantly associated with ASD.

International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, , 2020, 17(17), 6372