Autism Linked to Maternal Diabetes, Obesity
A new study suggests the link between autism and mothers who have diabetes and obesity is stronger than researchers once thought.
The increased prevalence of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) correlates with increases in obesity and diabetes, the authors noted, which is beginning to explain more about the causes of ASD.
Using electronic medical records and birth information, researchers were able to confirm the suspected link between ASD and a mother's health during pregnancy.
"Although previous studies report a link between maternal obesity and diabetes during pregnancy to autism, we demonstrate that electronic medical data can verify and establish the extent of this link across large populations," said Dr. Katherine Bowers, study author and a member of the Division of Biostatistics and Epidemiology at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center.
Risk increases with poorer health
The study data found that mothers with either obesity or gestational diabetes were 1.5 times more likely to have a child with ASD compared with moms who didn't have either risk factor. When moms had both obesity and diabetes, the risk for ASD was two-fold.
An estimated one in 45 children is affected by ASD. Current research suggests that both genetics and environment can play a role in the development of the condition.
This new data will be used to collaborate on larger, multi-institutional studies about ASD and maternal health, the authors said.
"The findings fit well into an increasing body of evidence that obesity and gestational diabetes may be associated with the development of autism," a press release on the study stated.