Review Article | Published:

Weight management interventions for youth with autism spectrum disorder: a systematic review

International Journal of Obesityvolume 43pages112 (2019) | Download Citation


Background and objective

In response to the elevated levels of overweight and obesity among children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), this article provides a systematic review of the extant empirical literature reporting the effect of weight management interventions (including exercise, diet, and medication) for youth with ASD.


A systematic review of published studies. The databases CINAHL, Web of Science, ERIC, Pubmed, and PsychINFO were searched, revealing 12 studies that were eligible for review.


Of the included studies, half (n = 6) demonstrated significant weight loss; including comprehensive (n = 3), pharmaceutical (n = 2), and exercise (n = 1) interventions. Of relevance, and concern, was that only one of the included studies was determined to be of strong research quality, with the majority (n = 8) determined as being of weak study quality. Furthermore, studies included highly heterogeneous treatment approaches, study designs, and sample characteristics.


This review demonstrates the potential of interventions (particularly individualized, comprehensive, and multidisciplinary team- based interventions) to effectively impact on weight among youth with ASD. It is imperative to rigorously test these interventions in individuals with ASD given the rates of obesity in this population and complications that ensue.

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Author information


  1. Department of Behavioral Health and Nutrition, University of Delaware, Newark, DE, USA

    • Seán Healy
    • , Carly R. Pacanowski
    •  & Edward Williams


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Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Seán Healy.

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