Children with autism are twice as likely to be diagnosed with a food allergy as the general population, a study has found.
Youngsters with the condition also have a higher risk of respiratory and skin allergies like eczema and hay fever, researchers said.
The study, led by public health scientists at the University of Iowa in the US, suggested both conditions have a shared origin in a child’s developing immune system.
However the study, published in the journal of the American Medical Association, Jama Network Open, does not provide any new evidence of such a link and has limitations that mean its other findings require caution.
“It is possible that immunologic disruptions may have processes beginning early in life, which then influence brain development and social functioning, leading to the development of autism spectrum disorders,” said Dr Wei Bao, an assistant professor of epidemiology.
Autism is a condition which changes the way people communicate and experience the world around them, and while some may live independent lives other may have health or learning differences that need support.
The condition was thrust into the spotlight in 1998 when disgraced British doctor Andrew Wakefield warned the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) triple jab might cause autism, pointing to rising cases worldwide.
This work has since been discredited and withdrawn and experts believe a more likely explanation for rising rates of autism – and allergies – is increasing awareness of the conditions.
Both can present in mild forms that might previously have gone unremarked on, however their causes are not fully understood and are likely to involve a mix of genetic and environmental factors at different times of development.