Diabetes Forecast

Autism May Increase Type 2 Diabetes Risk

What to Know

Autism (also known as autism spectrum disorder or ASD) is a brain disorder that causes varying levels of difficulty with social interactions, communication, and behavior. People with ASD often have health problems that increase their risk of type 2 diabetes, such as obesity (being overweight) and having high amounts of fat in the blood (a condition called dyslipidemia). Does this mean there’s a link between ASD and type 2 diabetes? This study sought to answer that question.

The Study

From 2002 to 2009, over 30,000 young people between the ages of 10 and 28 enrolled in the study: 6,122 with autism but not diabetes and 24,488 with neither diabetes nor autism. In 2011, the researchers compared the two groups to see which group developed type 2 diabetes at a higher rate.

The Results

The authors of the study found that the young people with autism were more likely to develop type 2 diabetes and that the risk continued into later life. The risk of diabetes went up even further among those who were taking psychiatric medications.


Kids with autism should be closely monitored by their doctors, who can track their body weight and the level of fat in their blood. This may help prevent or delay the development of diabetes. Other health factors, such as blood pressure, BMI (a ratio of weight to height), and family health history—all of which can play a role in the development of diabetes—were not covered by this study.

Risk of Developing Type 2 Diabetes in Adolescents and Young Adults With Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Nationwide Longitudinal Study. Mu-Hong Chen, Wen-Hsuan Lan, Ju-Wei Hsu, et al. Diabetes Care May 2016, 39 (5) 788-793; http://dx.doi.org/10.2337/dc15-1807

The information on this screen does not take the place of care from your doctor or other health care provider. If you have general questions about diabetes or diabetes-related research, e-mail askada@diabetes.org or call 1-800-DIABETES (800-342-2382).



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