In research on autism spectrum disorder (ASD), cognitive, speech- and anxiety-related impairments have been the focus of the majority of studies. One consistently reported ASD symptom that has rarely attracted attention is disordered appetite. The goal of this paper is to assess whether ASD-related dysregulation of food intake impacts consumption of palatable foods, including sugar.
Aberrant neural processing at the reward system level is at least partially responsible for excessive intake of palatable tastants, including sugar. Impaired oxytocin (OT) signaling likely contributes to the magnitude of this overconsumption. Since intake for reward is generally elevated in individuals with ASD, one strategy to curb sugar overconsumption might utilize presentation of alternative palatable food choices that are more nutritionally adequate than sucrose. Furthermore, OT, which is clinically tested to alleviate other ASD symptoms, might be an effective tool to curb overconsumption of sugar, as well as – likely – of other excessively ingested palatable foods, especially those that have sweet taste.

© 2021. The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature.