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Low Adiponectin Levels in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD): Correlation with Symptom Severity (2024 Study)

In the intricate puzzle of autism spectrum disorders (ASD), emerging research highlights a fascinating piece: the role of adiponectin, an anti-inflammatory adipokine, in the development and severity of ASD in children.

With the backdrop of increasing ASD prevalence and the quest for biomarkers for early identification, the exploration of adiponectin offers a promising avenue for understanding and potentially mitigating the impact of this complex condition.


  1. Adiponectin in ASD: Adiponectin, an anti-inflammatory adipokine produced by adipose tissue, may play a crucial role in the pathophysiology of ASD by modulating immune and inflammatory responses.
  2. Research Findings: Several studies have shown an inverse correlation between adiponectin levels in children with ASD and the severity of autistic symptoms, suggesting lower adiponectin levels may be associated with higher ASD risk.
  3. Potential for Early Diagnosis: Understanding adiponectin’s role in ASD could lead to the development of new biomarkers for early diagnosis, enabling timely interventions to optimize long-term outcomes.
  4. Complex Interactions: The relationship between adiponectin and ASD is influenced by various factors, including genetic, environmental, and metabolic factors, highlighting the complexity of ASD pathogenesis.

Source: BMC Psychiatry (2024)

What is Adiponectin?

Adiponectin is a protein hormone produced predominantly by adipose tissue and plays a crucial role in various metabolic processes, including glucose regulation and lipid oxidation.

Distinguished by its anti-inflammatory and insulin-sensitizing properties, adiponectin stands out as a unique adipokine that promotes cardiovascular health and metabolic homeostasis.

Its mechanisms of action involve enhancing insulin sensitivity, suppressing the metabolic dysfunctions that can lead to insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, and obesity, and modulating inflammatory responses within the body.

Abnormally Low Adiponectin Levels in Autism

Research indicates that individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) often exhibit abnormal levels of adiponectin, typically lower than those in neurotypical individuals.

There many be many reasons as to why this is the case.

1. Chronic Inflammation & Immune Dysregulation

ASD is often characterized by chronic inflammation and immune dysregulation.

Since adiponectin has anti-inflammatory properties, its levels might be suppressed in response to ongoing inflammation or as part of the dysregulated immune environment seen in ASD.

The body’s inability to regulate the immune response properly could thus lead to decreased production or secretion of adiponectin.

2. Metabolic Alterations

Individuals with ASD frequently exhibit metabolic alterations, including obesity, insulin resistance, and altered lipid profiles.

Adiponectin is closely linked to metabolic health, with lower levels often observed in the context of obesity and metabolic syndrome.

These metabolic challenges could contribute to the reduced adiponectin levels observed in some individuals with ASD, reflecting the disorder’s metabolic component.

3. Genetic & Epigenetic Factors

Genetic variations affecting adiponectin gene expression or secretion could play a role in the lower adiponectin levels seen in ASD.

Additionally, epigenetic modifications influenced by environmental factors, dietary patterns, and other exposures could alter the expression of genes related to adiponectin production, contributing to its decreased levels in ASD.

4. Gut-Brain Axis Dysregulation

The gut-brain axis, which plays a significant role in neurodevelopment and behavior, may also influence adiponectin levels.

Alterations in the gut microbiome, common in ASD, could impact metabolic health and inflammation status, indirectly affecting adiponectin production and release.

5. Hormonal Imbalances

ASD is associated with various hormonal imbalances, including those involving cortisol, oxytocin, and sex hormones, which could interact with adipokines, including adiponectin.

These hormonal disturbances might influence adiponectin regulation, leading to decreased levels in individuals with ASD.

Why research adiponectin in autism spectrum disorder?

1. Potential Biomarker for Early Detection

Identifying biomarkers that can predict ASD risk or severity is a significant challenge in the field.

Given the association between adiponectin levels and ASD, measuring these levels could potentially serve as a non-invasive method for early detection.

Early diagnosis of ASD is crucial for initiating interventions that can significantly improve long-term outcomes for affected individuals.

2. Understanding Autism Pathophysiology

Exploring the reasons behind abnormal adiponectin levels in ASD can offer insights into the disorder’s pathophysiological mechanisms.

Research into how adiponectin interacts with the immune system, metabolic pathways, and brain function can help elucidate the complex interplay between these systems in ASD.

This knowledge could lead to new therapeutic targets, focusing on restoring adiponectin levels or modulating its effects to alleviate symptoms or reduce ASD risk.

3. Therapeutic Implications

If adiponectin’s role in ASD is further substantiated, it could open up novel therapeutic avenues.

For instance, interventions aimed at increasing adiponectin levels or mimicking its action might mitigate some of the metabolic, immune, and possibly neurodevelopmental abnormalities associated with ASD.

This approach could be particularly beneficial for subgroups of individuals with ASD who exhibit specific metabolic or immunological profiles.

Findings from Study of Adiponectin in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) (2024 Study)

A study by Mohsan Ali et al. examined the relationship between adiponectin levels and autism spectrum disorders (ASD) in children has produced nuanced and compelling findings, drawing a complex picture of how this anti-inflammatory adipokine could influence the risk and severity of ASD.

1. Inverse Correlation: Adiponectin Levels & ASD

A significant portion of the reviewed research demonstrates an inverse correlation between adiponectin levels in children and the presence of ASD.

Specifically, 4 out of 6 studies identified through the comprehensive literature review found that lower levels of adiponectin were associated with an increased likelihood of ASD diagnosis.

This finding is pivotal because it suggests a potential biomarker for ASD that could be utilized for early detection and intervention strategies.

It aligns with the hypothesis that immune dysregulation, potentially mediated by changes in anti-inflammatory markers like adiponectin, plays a central role in ASD pathogenesis.

2. Adiponectin & Autism Severity

Decreased Adiponectin Levels in ASD

The majority of the studies highlighted statistically significant lower adiponectin levels in children diagnosed with ASD when compared to their neurotypical peers.

For instance, one study reported a mean adiponectin level of 11.0 ± 4.0 µg/mL in the ASD group versus 14.5 ± 5.3 µg/mL in the control group, with a p-value of 0.005, indicating a statistically significant difference.

Correlation with Severity of Autistic Symptoms

Notably, 2 of the 4 studies reporting an inverse correlation also found that the severity of autistic symptoms was associated with lower adiponectin levels.

This suggests that adiponectin may not only be a marker for the presence of ASD but could also reflect the severity of the condition, offering insights into the biological underpinnings of symptom variability within ASD.

Adiponectin Levels in Autism Spectrum Disorder in Children (2024 Study)

The primary objective of the study was to investigate the relationship between adiponectin levels and autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) in children.


  • The selection process aimed to identify studies up to 2022 that provided data on the mean differences in adiponectin levels between children with and without ASDs.
  • Observational studies, including cross-sectional or prospective studies, were considered, while case reports, case series, duplicates, and reviews were excluded.
  • Data on adiponectin levels were extracted, focusing on mean differences between groups.
  • The quality of the studies was assessed using the Newcastle-Ottawa Scale (NOS) for prospective studies and a modified version of the NOS for cross-sectional studies.
  • Two independent reviewers conducted the assessments, with discrepancies resolved through discussion until consensus was reached.


  • The literature search identified 6 studies that met the inclusion criteria, revealing an inverse correlation between adiponectin levels and ASD in children.
  • Four out of these six studies reported significantly lower adiponectin levels in children with ASD compared to healthy controls.
  • Additionally, two of these studies, along with one other, found that low adiponectin levels were associated with the severity of autistic symptoms. However, one study reviewed yielded insignificant results.
  • Most of the reviewed studies suggested that children with ASD had lower adiponectin levels, which also correlated with the severity of autistic symptoms.
  • This pattern supports the hypothesis that adiponectin deficiency might play a role in the pathophysiology of ASD, potentially through mechanisms related to immune dysfunction and inflammation.


  • The overall number of studies and their sample sizes were relatively small, which may affect the generalizability of the findings.
  • All studies reviewed were observational, meaning that causality between low adiponectin levels and ASD could not be definitively established.
  • There was a lack of uniformity in measuring adiponectin levels and assessing ASD severity across the studies, which could lead to variability in the results.
  • These limitations underscore the need for further research with larger, more diverse populations and standardized methodologies to conclusively determine the role of adiponectin in ASD.

Adiponectin’s Potential Role in the Pathophysiology of Autism

The consistent finding of reduced adiponectin levels in children with ASD points towards a possible role of adiponectin in the neurodevelopmental and immunological aspects of ASD.

Adiponectin is known for its anti-inflammatory properties, including the ability to modulate the immune response and inhibit proinflammatory cytokines.

Its decreased levels in ASD could contribute to an inflammatory state, affecting brain development and function, which is consistent with the immune dysregulation hypothesis in ASD.

  • Anti-inflammatory Effects: Adiponectin’s capacity to suppress pro-inflammatory cytokines could be crucial in preventing the neuroinflammation often observed in ASD. The studies suggest that lower adiponectin levels may lead to an unchecked inflammatory response, potentially disrupting neurodevelopmental processes and contributing to the ASD phenotype.
  • Metabolic & Brain Functions: Given adiponectin’s roles in metabolic regulation and neuroprotection, its deficiency in ASD could signal underlying metabolic disturbances and altered brain function. These disturbances might contribute to the development or exacerbation of ASD symptoms, highlighting the interconnectedness of metabolism, immune function, and neurodevelopment in ASD.

Conclusion: Low Adiponectin & Autism Connection

The investigation into adiponectin levels in individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) unveils the hormone’s potential as a biomarker and a therapeutic target.

While lower adiponectin levels have been predominantly reported and linked to the disorder’s pathophysiology, understanding the conditions under which adiponectin might be elevated in ASD is equally crucial.

Such variability underscores the biological complexity and heterogeneity of ASD, reflecting the interplay between genetic, metabolic, immune, and environmental factors.

Recognizing these diverse adiponectin profiles within the ASD population can lead to more personalized approaches in diagnosis and treatment, aiming to address the specific underlying mechanisms active in each individual.

Ultimately, this research emphasizes the importance of a nuanced understanding of adiponectin’s role in ASD, paving the way for interventions that could improve outcomes for those on the spectrum.

The potential for adiponectin to serve both as a diagnostic marker and a therapeutic modality highlights the need for continued exploration into its multifaceted relationship with ASD.


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