Study: Autism linked to obesity in mothers

April 9, 2012 at 8:36 PM
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DAVIS, Calif., April 9 (UPI) -- Mothers obese while pregnant have a higher risk of having a child with autism spectrum disorder or another developmental disorder, U.S. researchers say.

Paula Krakowiak, a doctoral candidate in epidemiology affiliated with the University of California, David, MIND Institute and colleagues said obese women were 67 percent more likely to have a child with autism spectrum disorder than normal-weight women without diabetes or hypertension.

In addition, the study also found obese mothers were more than twice as likely to have a child with another developmental disorder.

The researchers also found mothers with diabetes were nearly 67 percent more likely to have a child with developmental delays as mothers without diabetes. However, the proportion of mothers with diabetes who had a child with autism spectrum disorder was higher than in healthy moms but did not reach statistical significance.

However, even children without autism spectrum disorder born to diabetic women exhibited impairments in socialization and language comprehension when compared with the non-autism spectrum disorder children of healthy women, Krakowiak said.

"More than one-third of U.S. women in their childbearing years are obese, and nearly one-tenth have gestational or type 2 diabetes during pregnancy," Krakowiak said in a statement. "The study does not conclude that diabetes and obesity cause autism spectrum disorder and developmental delays, it suggests that fetal exposure to elevated glucose and maternal inflammation levels adversely affect fetal development."

The findings were published in Pediatrics, the Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

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