Children with ASD often demonstrate selective eating behaviours that may place them at risk for inadequate vitamin and mineral intake. Nevertheless, the majority of research on dietary intake and ASD indicates that nutrient intake from food is similar for children with ASD, and/or the “typical developing child”. For example, the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey demonstrated that a deficit in vitamin D, calcium, potassium and choline was similar for a child diagnosed with ASD compared to a child in the general population. To address nutrient deficit, research indicates that parents often supplement their child’s diet to avoid deficiency. However, it has been shown that supplementation often fails to correct nutrient deficit, leading to “excessive” intake of supplements.
In a recent study on ASD and dietary intake (2015) many of the supplement users in this study exceeded the upper limit for safe intake levels of Vitamin A, folic acid, and zinc. In the case of vitamin A, excess supplementation is of concern particularly if supplied as retinol, resulting in side effects including nausea, headache, fatigue, loss of appetite, psychiatric changes (changes in mood and behaviour) and irritability. In fact, it has been confirmed that multi-vitamin mineral supplements do not provide sufficient amounts of the micronutrients typically consumed in inadequate amounts by children with or without ASD. Instead the supplement/s often provides more of the micronutrients already consumed in sufficient amounts. As stated, this can lead to excessive intake that may place children at risk for adverse effects.
Interestingly, two of the micronutrients of greatest concern for ASD children in the foregoing study, were vitamin D and calcium. However, even after supplementation, a large percentage of children did not meet recommended intake levels for these micronutrients. For this reason, it is strongly recommended that children with ASD be screened regularly for nutrient adequacy and asked about food and supplement intake. A registered dietitian/nutritionist should be consulted if nutrient deficiencies or excess is suspected.
If you have any questions related to this article please contact:
A: Mark Hinchey Naturopathy, 601 Glebe Road Adamstown, Newcastle, Australia, 2289
P: 0432234822 (All appointments)
L: (02) 40235959