Obesity In Mothers Increases Chances Of Autism In Children
April 9, 2012

Obesity In Mothers Increases Chances Of Autism In Children

A new study conducted by researchers affiliated with the UC Davis MIND Institute is proposing that women suffering from obesity during pregnancy may increase their chances of having a child with autism.

The study, published online in Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, found that clinically obese mothers were 1-2/3 times more likely to have a child diagnosed with autism as normal-weight mothers without diabetes or hypertension. They were also more than twice as likely to have a child with another developmental disorder.

Diabetic mothers, in the same study, were found to have nearly 2-1/3 times the chance of having a child with developmental delays as healthy mothers. The proportion of mothers with diabetes who had a child with autism was higher than in healthy mothers but did not reach statistical significance.

Autism can refer to a range of related developmental disorders that start in childhood and affect a person in various ways for their whole life, the Daily Mail Online reports. Broadly defined, autism affects social interaction, impairs language and communication skills and can distract a sufferer with unusual patterns of thought and behavior

People with autism may also be over or under-sensitive to sounds, touch, taste, smells, light or color. Symptoms can range from mild to severe but all can cause anxiety. It is three times more common among boys than girls.

While some people with autism can live relatively independent lives, others may need a lifetime of specialist support and although there is no cure, there are a number of treatments to help autistic people better cope with the world around them.

The study also found that the autistic children of diabetic mothers were more disabled, with greater deficits in language comprehension, production and adaptive communication, than were the children with autism born to healthy mothers.

However, the children without autism born to diabetic mothers also exhibited impairments in socialization in addition to language comprehension and production, when compared with the non-autistic children of healthy women.

Children without autism of mothers with any of the metabolic conditions displayed mild deficits in problem solving, language comprehension and production, motor skills and socialization.

Paula Krakowiak, a biostatician affiliated with the MIND Institute said in a recent press release, “Over a third of US women in their childbearing years are obese and nearly one-tenth have gestational or type 2 diabetes during pregnancy.”

“Our finding that these maternal conditions may be linked with neurodevelopmental problems in children raises concerns and therefore may have serious public-health implications.”

The authors of the study said that it is the first study to examine the associations between neurodevelopmental disorders and maternal metabolic conditions not restricted solely to type 2 or gestational diabetes.

The study included 1,004 mother/child pairs from diverse backgrounds enrolled in the Childhood Autism Risks from Genetics and the Environment Study (CHARGE) between January 2003 and June 2010, most of them living in Northern California, with a small subset living in Los Angeles.

The children were between 24 and 60 months old, born in California and resided with at least one biological parent who spoke either English or Spanish. There were 517 children who had autism; 172 with other developmental disorders; and 315 were developing normally, the Associated Press (AP) reports.

Dr. Daniel Coury, chief of developmental and behavioral pediatrics at Nationwide Children´s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, said the results “raise quite a concern.”

He noted that US autism rates have increased along with obesity rates and said the research suggests that may be more than a coincidence. “More research is needed to confirm the results. But if mothers´ obesity is truly related to autism, it would be only one of many contributing factors,” said Coury, who was not involved in the study.