Obese mothers 'more likely to have children with autism'|
SACRAMENTO, California, USA: Obese mothers are twice as likely to have children with autism or other developmental problems, a study has found.
Researchers found that women who were obese, or had conditions associated with being overweight such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure or gestational diabetes were more likely to have children with problems.
The study examined almost 1,000 children between the ages of two and five, two thirds of whom had autism or other developmental delays, and matched them against the third who had developed normally.
It was found that obese women were almost 70 per cent more likely to have a child with autism and more than twice as likely to have a child with a developmental delay.
The results were similar if the mothers had a metabolic condition, such as high blood pressure or diabetes.
It was also found that, of the children who had autism, those whose mothers had diabetes had more severe impairments of language than those of healthy mothers.
The findings were published in the journal, Pediatrics, and come after major studies found strong genetic links for some cases of autism.
The authors of the study from University of California Davis MIND Institute in Sacramento, wrote: “In this study, we observed that diabetes, hypertension, and obesity were more common among mothers of children with autism spectrum disorders and developmental delay compared with controls.
“Furthermore, diabetes, in particular, was associated with statistically significantly greater deficits in expres- sive language among children with autism spectrum disorder, although the magnitude of the deficits was relatively small.
“Among children without autism, metabolic conditions collectively were associated with impairments in visual reception, motor skills, and receptive and expressive language, as well as adaptive communication and socialisation.”
“Our finding that these maternal conditions may be linked with neurodevelopmental problems in children raises concerns and therefore may have serious public-health implications,” said Paula Krakowiak, a biostatician affiliated with the MIND Institute.
It is thought that exposure to increased levels of glucose while in the womb, due to the mother having diabetes, cause changes in the baby’s metabolism which mean it uses more oxygen than normal. This could starve the brain of vital oxygen as it is developing, it was suggested.
The study relied on women’s own recollection of their health during pregnancy and all the children underwent independent validated tests to confirm their diagnosis of autism or developmental delay.
(Source: Daily Telegraph, April 20, 2012)