Maternal Obesity Linked to Autism and Cognitive Disorders in Children

By Monica Wilson on April 12, 2012

There is a possibility that obese and diabetic mothers will have children with autism and development disorders, reported by the researchers from University of California and Vanderbilt University in the US.

Study Findings

In a case-control study, experts looked at three metabolic disorders among pregnant women – high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity and whether they have any connection to autism and developmental disorders in children. To do this, researchers recruited 1,004 children aged 2 to 5 with autism spectrum disorder, developmental delay and typical development. Their conditions were clinically proven and their level of development was assessed using two of the most popular behavioural methods: Vineland Adaptive Behaviour Scale (VABS) and the Mullen Scales of Early Learning (MSEL). Furthermore, the condition of their mums during pregnancy was obtained via medical records, birth files, and structured interviews with them.

The researchers checked whether their mothers had such metabolic problems during pregnancy and they found that some had. The limitation of the study however is it wasn’t designed to measure if there’s a cause-and-effect relationship between maternal obesity and autism. Children with typical development were matched to the children with autism disorder. Some factors were also considered such as age, gender, and place they live. The study revealed that the risk of autism spectrum disorders is relatively low (1 in 110 children).

No Cause-Effect Relationship

Furthermore, it was found that type 2 diabetes was common among mothers of children with autism and developmental delay. There was 9.3% prevalence on those with autism spectrum and 11.3% with those who have developmental delay. Obesity was also found to be common in mums of children who have autism, which constitutes 28.6% prevalence.

The cause of autism is still unknown. While it can be possible that metabolic conditions may promote the onset of autism and other developmental problems, the study shouldn’t be noted that it only shows a ‘link’. Furthermore, even if the study doesn’t suggest any cause-effect relationship at all, maintaining a healthy body during pregnancy still makes a perfect sense.

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