FRIDAY, May 15, 2020 (HealthDay News) — Greater autistic social traits in childhood could be a risk factor for the development of disordered eating in adolescence, according to a study published online May 3 in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry.

Francesca Solmi, Ph.D., from University College London, and colleagues used data from 5,381 participants in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children to assess trajectories of autistic social traits across childhood and adolescence in adolescents with and without disordered eating behaviors at age 14 years. Mothers reported autistic social traits using the Social and Communication Disorders Checklist (SCDC) at ages 7, 11, 14, and 16 years.

The researchers found that 421 participants (7.8 percent) experienced one or more disordered eating behaviors (fasting, purging, dieting, binge eating). There was a 20 percent increase in SCDC scores among adolescents with disordered eating (relative risk, 1.23) versus participants without disordered eating. This association was stronger for those who reported weekly episodes (relative risk, 1.43) compared with those who reported monthly disordered eating (relative risk, 1.12).

“Although mechanisms of this association need to be elucidated, clinicians should be aware that autistic social traits could have predated the eating disorder when managing people with these conditions,” the authors write.

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