What is already known about this subject:
- Many studies have investigated feeding difficulties in children with autism, and low food variety is frequently noted. However it is not known whether this relationship exists in those without diagnosed autism but with higher autistic like traits.
- Autistic like traits are similar to symptoms of autism, and include deficits in areas such as social skills, communication and attention switching.
- The aim of our study, in a prospective cohort of healthy young adults, was to explore if those with higher autistic-like traits had lower food variety and diet quality in early childhood.
What this study adds
- A total of 811 Gen2 participants from the longitudinal Raine Study had available data on 24-hour recalls at ages 1, 2 and 3 and the Autism Spectrum Quotient (AQ) at age 20. A food variety score calculated the number of different food types consumed in one day. Diet quality was assessed using the Raine Eating Assessment in Toddlerhood (EAT) score. The AQ measured autistic-like traits, and scores were divided into quartiles. The final analysis adjusted for maternal age, family income and breastfeeding duration.
- As autistic-like traits increased, there were decreases in the variety of total foods, core foods (five food groups) and dairy foods (p=?0.05). An increase in autistic-like traits was also associated with decreases in diet quality, however this was only significant for the EAT score at age two (p=0.024).
- Higher autistic-like traits were associated with lower consumption of citrus fruits and yoghurt (p=0.04 for both). Although picky eating is considered common in toddlers, our results suggest that young adults with more autistic-like traits are more likely to have had lower food variety and quality in early childhood compared to those with less traits.