Association between Autism Spectrum Disorder and Iron
Deficiency in Children Diagnosed Autism Spectrum Disorder
in the Northern West Bank
Sajed Faisal Al-Ali¹ MSN, Dr. Sabrina Russo² PhD, Dr. Aidah Alkaissi², PhD
1, An-Najah National University, Faculty of Higher Studies- Nablus-Palestine
2, An-Najah National University- Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences- Nursing & Midwifery Department-
This paper was presented in the Middle Eastern Nurses & Partners Uniting in Human Caring Conference, Aqaba,
Iron has an important role in cognitive, behavioral, and motor development. A high prevalence of iron deficiency (ID) has been reported in people with autism. Children with autism are at risk for ID and this condition may increase the severity of psychomotor and behavioral problems, some of which already inherently exist in these children.
Aim of the study: The aim of this study is to investigate the association between autism and iron
deficiency in autistic children in the Northern West Bank and to identify food selectivity and compare indices of food selectivity among children with autism, children with mental disorders and typically developing children (normal children).
Background: Autism is a developmental disorder characterized by qualitative abnormalities
of social interaction, impairments in communication, and unusual forms of repetitive behavior . Research shows that a high prevalence of iron deficiency has been reported in children with autism spectrum disorders. Inadequate dietary iron intake was considered as a cause of iron deficiency, and low iron intake was thought to be associated with food selectivity which is commonly seen in children with autistic disorders.
Method: 90 children with an age range of 3 to 13 years participated in a case control study distributed into study group andtwo control groups. Thirty children diagnosed with autism according to DSMIV and ICD-10 criteria served as a study group, 30 children with mental disorders other than autism served as a control group, and 30 typically developing children taken from the public functioned as a second control group. The three groups were matched for age, gender and geographical area. Serum ferritin, hemoglobin, hematocrit, mean corpuscular volume, and red cell distribution width values were measured and analyzed with food habit survey and demographic data.
Results: ID was detected in 20% (N = 6/30) of autistic children based on Serum ferritin level (SF< 10μ/l),
compared with 0% for the two control groups (p= 0.0001). Anemia was defined as hemoglobin <110g/l for
children under the age of 6 years and hemoglobin <120g/l for children between 6 and 13 years of age .When analysis done for HGB to these six children (children who have low serum ferritin); it was found that 66.6% (4/6) of the children two were pre-school male children (HGB is less than 110g/1), and the other two were one male and one female of school children (HGB is less than 120g/l) have iron deficiency anemia, and the iron deficiency anemia was 13.3% (4\30) for all autistic group. The results indicated that these differences were for males. It was found also that the frequency of low iron intake in these children was associated with feeding difficulties and food selectivity; there was a significant difference between children in the autistic group who chose foods with a red color as a favorite 23% (7/30) compared to the other two control groups: 0%, respectively (p= 0.0001). The results demonstrated also a significant difference in the frequency of snacks per day (≥ 4) in autistic children 40% (12/30) compared to both mental disorder 16.7 % (n = 5/30) (p = 0.006) and typically developing children 6.7% (n = 2/30) groups (p = 0.001).
Conclusions: Results of this study indicated that there is an association between autism, iron deficiency and anemia. Low levels of serum ferritin in autistic children might be a sign of iron deficiency and an early precursor of iron deficiency anemia. These findings suggest that food selectivity is more common in children with autism than in typically developing children. These findings suggest that ferritin levels should be measured in children with autism as a part of routine investigation.
Keywords: Child, Autism, Mental disorder, typically developing children, Iron deficiency, Iron deficiency