Myth Busted: Autism Spectrum Disorder Triggers Type 1 Diabetes in Children

Findings published in the journal Diabetic Medicine prove that there is no such link between type 1 diabetes and an autism spectrum disorder. On comparison with the children who do not have autism, these children are at no more risk for developing type 1 diabetes based on autism spectrum disorder.

Autism is a broad term which covers a range of neurobehavioral conditions including the challenges with social interaction. As per the statistics of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 59 children are being affected by this condition in the United States.

Lauren G. Kanapka, MSc, a biostatistician at Jaeb Center for Health Research in Tampa, Florida, and colleagues said, “Both type 1 diabetes and autism spectrum disorder are common chronic conditions that may present during childhood.

“Given the high prevalence of [autism spectrum disorder] and the extra challenges facing individuals with the condition, it is important to identify with which comorbidities [autism spectrum disorder] is associated.”

Kanapka and her team studied the data of 10,032 children from the TID Exchange registry who had type 1 diabetes in their medical history. On average, the children aged 13 years of which 51.7% were girls. They had a medical history of approximately 6.5 years on average.

All the related medical information on diabetes including data on diabetic ketoacidosis, the amount needed of the insulin every day and development of autism spectrum disorders (ADS) including Asperger’s and pervasive developmental disorder were gathered and studied from the records of June 2016 to September 2017.

Out of 10,032 children, scientists diagnosed autism only in 159 children that is 1.58% of the participants. The author said it was just “similar to the general U.S. population rate of 1.69%.” The analysis of the study showed that eighty-eight percent of the autism-related participants were boys while 51% of them were without any autism spectrum disorder (P < .001).

Researchers explain that “Our data … suggest that there is not a link between ASD and type 1 diabetes. Future studies should aim to look for a genetic link between type 1 diabetes and ASD that would be seen only in males.”

The study clearly showed that on comparing with the normal children autism spectrum disorder is no more a triggering factor for type 1 diabetes in children. However, these children may show some “some superior diabetes management outcomes.”

As per the analysis, 52% of the children with autism spectrum disorder were living their lives on insulin pump therapy, while 63% of the participants who did not have any autism spectrum disorder were on the therapy(P = .005).

The researchers also observed that between the two groups of the participants there was no such difference in severe hypoglycemia, the need for glucose monitor and diabetic ketoacidosis.

Authors say, “Given the developmental challenges and mental health problems associated with ASD, it is not surprising that pump use is less frequent in those with ASD.”

Participants who had autism spectrum disorder had their HbA1c of 8.4% while the other group had 8.5% (P < .006). Children did not have any neurobehavioral condition, kept a track of their glucose level 4 times a day (P = .011) as compared to the other group who checked 4.2 times per day. There was another finding related to cholesterol too but was of little significance. Children with autism spectrum disorder had less amount of cholesterol.

Phil Neuffer wrote, “The lower HbA1c, higher number of daily blood glucose checks and trend toward lower cholesterol might suggest that those with ASD are more regimented in their diabetes and dietary management or that those with ASD are more likely to have an adult manage their diabetes through adolescence.”

The findings of the research paper “Type 1 Diabetes and Autism: Is there a link?” are published in the Journal Diabetic Medicine.

The author, at last, concluded it by saying, “In conclusion, our observations do not support the suggestion about the link between type 1 diabetes and ASD. These findings, however, suggest that a subgroup of children developing autism suffered exposure to adverse prenatal and neonatal asphyxia (6) and unfavorable events in pregnancy, delivery, and the neonatal phase.”

Adeena Tariq

Adeena's professional life has been mostly in hospital management, while studying international business in college. Of course, she now covers topics for us in health.

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