Digestive Diseases and Sciences

, Volume 57, Issue 8, pp 2096–2102 | Cite as

Elevated Fecal Short Chain Fatty Acid and Ammonia Concentrations in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

  • Lv Wang
  • Claus Thagaard Christophersen
  • Michael Joseph Sorich
  • Jacobus Petrus Gerber
  • Manya Therese AngleyEmail author
  • Michael Allan Conlon
Original Article


Background and Aim

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a complex neurodevelopmental disorder where a high frequency of gastrointestinal disturbance (e.g., constipation and diarrhea) is reported. As large bowel fermentation products can have beneficial or detrimental effects on health, these were measured in feces of children with and without ASD to examine whether there is an underlying disturbance in fermentation processes in the disorder.


Fecal samples (48 h) were collected from children with ASD (n = 23), and without ASD (n = 31) of similar age. Concentrations of short chain fatty acids, phenols and ammonia were measured.


Fecal total short chain fatty acid concentrations were significantly higher in children with ASD compared to controls (136.6 ± 8.7 vs. 111.1 ± 6.6 mmol/kg). Moreover, when concentrations of fecal acetic, butyric, isobutyric, valeric, isovaleric and caproic acids were measured, all were significantly higher in children with ASD compared with controls except for caproic acid. The concentration of fecal ammonia was also significantly greater in ASD participants than controls (42.7 ± 3.3 vs. 32.3 ± 1.9 mmol/kg). Fecal phenol levels and pH did not differ between groups. Macronutrient intake, as determined from dietary records kept by caregivers, also did not differ significantly between study groups.


Our results suggest fermentation processes or utilization of fermentation products may be altered in children with ASD compared to children without ASD.


Autism spectrum disorder Short chain fatty acids Phenols Ammonia 



This research was funded by The Australian Rotary Health Research Fund. We wish to express our gratitude to the participating children and their parents. We would also like to acknowledge Dr Richard Couper, pediatric gastroenterologist, for medical advice; Mrs. Rosalind Miller for statistical assistance; and Emma Watson, Ben Scherer, Bruce May and Rhys Bushell for technical assistance.

Conflict of interest


Supplementary material

10620_2012_2167_MOESM1_ESM.doc (242 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 241 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lv Wang
    • 1
  • Claus Thagaard Christophersen
    • 2
  • Michael Joseph Sorich
    • 1
  • Jacobus Petrus Gerber
    • 1
  • Manya Therese Angley
    • 1
    Email author
  • Michael Allan Conlon
    • 2
  1. 1.Sansom Institute for Health ResearchUniversity of South AustraliaAdelaideAustralia
  2. 2.Preventative Health National Research FlagshipCSIRO Food and Nutritional SciencesAdelaideAustralia

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