TUESDAY, May 4, 2021 (HealthDay News) — While it’s well established that autism and certain eating issues go hand in hand, does gender also play a role?
Apparently it does, according to Swedish researchers who set out to better understand whether being male or female influenced eating issues in people who have autism.
The study found that autistic traits predicted eating problems, but the link was more pronounced particularly among girls or women. These issues around eating might increase the risk of social isolation for females with autism, the researchers also found.
“We didn’t study the potential genetic difference between males and females, but we did look at this association between autism and eating problems. And we wanted to know if that was different between females and males,” said study author Karl Lundin Remnelius, a PhD student at Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm.
The specific eating problems that were noted by females involved social settings, Remnelius said.
“These items were, for example, ‘I find it difficult to eat with friends’ or ‘I find it difficult to eat in school or in a workplace or in a restaurant,'” Remnelius said. “And we actually saw when we looked closer at this subscale that it was only these social items that autistic females report or had higher scores in.”
The study also found that autistic traits predicted increased eating problems. This may not be that autism also causes eating problems but that certain genetic factors could be responsible for both, Remnelius said.
“We don’t know if this is causal, is autism causing eating problems, or if there might be some other factor that might be influencing both autism and eating problems. One thing could be that some of the genes that increase the likelihood of a person having autism might also increase the likelihood of a person having eating problems,” Remnelius said.
“Sometimes you describe that as genetic confounding, so it’s not really autism causing eating problems,” he said. “It’s more that people who have autism also have a sort of h