Eating Problems in Men and Women with ASD and Average Intelligence

Thursday, May 14, 2015: 11:30 AM-1:30 PM
Imperial Ballroom (Grand America Hotel)
A. A. Spek, Autisme Kenniscentrum, Utrecht, Netherlands

Research shows that eating problems are common in children with ASD. However, we know little about eating problems and eating disorders in adults with ASD with normal or high intelligence. Furthermore, information is lacking about differences in eating problems between men and women with ASD.


To examine eating problems in men and women with ASD and average or high intelligence.


19 men and 21 women with ASD and full scale IQ > 85 were examined using the Dutch translation of the SWEA (SWeadish Eating Assessment for Autism). Results were compared with 30 neurotypical men and 32 neurotypical women. The ASD and non-ASD groups were matched on level of education and age. Diagnoses of the participants with ASD were based on the ADI-R and an interview based on the DSM-5 criteria of ASD.


Results showed that the men with ASD reported significantly more preferences for certain foods, more sensitivity for food surrounding and less sensitivity for signals of hunger and thirst than the neurotypical men. The women with ASD reported similar problems as the men with ASD. The women with ASD also reported significantly more sensory sensitivity regarding foods, problems in motor control, difficulty with social aspects of eating situations and symptoms of formal eating disorders than neurotypical women.


Our results seem to indicate that men and especially women with ASD experience various eating problems. In women, there was also evidence for symptoms of eating disorders. Further research is necessary, especially regarding the diagnostics and treatment of eating problems and eating disorders in men and women with ASD.