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Autism Spectrum Disorders in Eating Disorder Populations: A Systematic Review1


  • 1Recruitment and data analyses were conducted at the Yorkshire Centre for Eating Disorders.

Correspondence: Dr John Morgan, MD, MA, FRCPsych, Yorkshire Centre for Eating Disorders, Ward 6, Newsam Centre, Seacroft Hospital, York Road, Leeds, UK LS146WB. Tel: 0113 3056400; Fax: 0113 3056401.




Empirical research addressing cognitive processing deficits in eating disorders has noted an overlap with autism spectrum disorders. We conducted a systematic review investigating the prevalence of autism spectrum disorder in its entirety in eating disordered populations.


A comprehensive search for relevant studies was performed on five electronic databases. Studies were not included if solely focused on specific traits of autism spectrum disorders, for instance, theory of mind, set shifting or central coherence. Titles, abstracts and full texts were screened by two members of the research team independently. Quantitative studies published in English were included.


A total of eight studies were found to fit the inclusion criteria. Results showed significantly raised prevalence rates of autism spectrum disorder in eating disorder populations compared with those in healthy control participants.


This discovery has clinical implications and may assist in deciphering poor responses to conventional treatment, facilitating new psychological interventions for eating disorders. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd and Eating Disorders Association.