The Odd Couple: Autism + Anorexia?

February 24th, 2011 in News 6 comments

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The Odd Couple

The Odd Couple via Omahype

Have you ever considered there to be commonalities between autism and anorexia? Up until a few weeks ago, the idea  never crossed my mind. I was more focused on how that other autism study about vaccines was proven to be a complete hoax.

On February 10th, researchers at the University of Bath in England released some information on an upcoming paper that is to be published in the British Journal of Clinical Psychology. Dr. Mark Brosnan and the rest of his research team have possibly found a correlation between autism and eating disorders. Although there have been hints to this relationship in clinical settings (the news blurb refers to women diagnosed with eating disorders producing high scores on a “questionnaire that measures characteristics associated with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD)”), no formal research had been performed to test the strength of the relationship between the two diseases.

Dr. Brosnan studied 61 boys and 71 girls between the ages of 11 and 14  to make up a total of 132 children. His reasoning for testing this age group was to see if there was a correlation between the two disorders at a young age in a “non-clinical population.” All of the students filled out questionnaires that examined their characteristics and how strongly they relate to autism and eating disorders. The to be published results suggest that there is indeed a link between the two disorders, and the relationship is especially strong between “eating disorder, attention to detail and communication skills.”

In addition to the results of the research being simply interesting, Brosnan has stated that finding this relationship is key since “‘The application of one research area to another may contribute to a better understanding of both clinical conditions.’” Brosnan then goes on to describe how autism is seen as a disorder that mainly affects men, and eating disorders mainly affect women. However, his research shows that high scores relating to “attention to detail” and “poor communication skills” were found the most among those who expressed the largest tendencies toward eating disorder. High scores in these two areas of the autism assessment were the greatest predictor of a high score on the eating disorder assessment, not sex of the student.

This paper has yet to be published, so more complex questions about the study will remain unanswered until the research is officially published. However, these implications prove to be very intriguing. Keep an eye on it. I know I will.

Eating disorders linked with autism in school children – University News of the University of Bath

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