In The Politics of Autism, I discuss the health problems of people on the spectrum. Studies indicate that autistic people are prone to overweight and low physical activity levels. At Nature, Robyn P. Thom and colleagues have an article titled "Prevalence and factors associated with overweight, obesity, and hypertension in a large clinical sample of adults with autism spectrum disorder." The abstract:
Adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are at risk for excess bodyweight and hypertension, yet the prevalence of and clinical predictors for these health conditions remain unknown. The objective of this study was to assess the prevalence of overweight, obesity, and hypertension in a large clinical sample of adults with a confirmed diagnosis of ASD and to examine potential clinical predictors. This retrospective chart review study included adult subjects (≥ 20 years) with ASD who had been seen within the past 5 years at a multidisciplinary developmental disorders clinic. Data collected from the electronic health record included age, sex, race and ethnicity, cognitive ability, language ability, body mass index (BMI), hypertension, and use of second generation antipsychotic medications (SGAs). Of 622 adults with a confirmed diagnosis of ASD potentially eligible for the study, 483 (78%) had one or more notes in their records from the past 5 years. Those with recent notes were 23% female, 89% White, and had a mean (SD) age of 28.1 (7.1) years. Overall prevalence estimates for adults represented by this predominantly male, White, and young clinical sample were 28% (95% CI 24%, 32%) for overweight (BMI 25–29.9 kg/m2), 35% (95% CI 31%, 40%) for obesity (≥ 30 kg/m2), and 11% (95% CI 9%, 15%) for hypertension. Controlling for age and sex, intellectual disability (ID) was significantly associated with BMI (p = 0.003) but not hypertension (p = 0.69); those with moderate or more severe ID had a mean BMI that was 2.26 kg/m2 (95% CI 0.96, 3.57) lower than those with no ID. Controlling for age and sex, neither language ability, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM-IV) subtype of autism, nor past or current use of SGAs were significantly associated with BMI or hypertension. The study identified a high prevalence of overweight and obesity in adults with ASD consistent with the prevalence of these medical comorbidities in the U.S. population.