Researchers said mothers who are obese are significantly more likely to have a child with autism or another developmental abnormality. The finding adds to the increasingly complex picture of possible factors that contribute to the disorders, such as autism.
The new research, published in the journal Pediatrics, studied over 1,000 children aged two to five years old with and without autism or other developmental problems, as well as their mother's health history.
The study included 1,004 mother-and-child pairs who were enrolled in the Childhood Autism Risks from Genetics and the Environment Study (CHARGE). Most of the families were from Northern California, with a small group living in Los Angeles.
The link between obesity and developmental disorders is particularly worrisome because obesity has become so prevalent. About a third of U.S. women of reproductive age are considered obese, the authors said.
"I was surprised at how strong the obesity effect was on new-born children and their cognitive development," said Dr. Irva Hertz-Picciotto, professor of Epidemiology and a researcher at the MIND Institute . "And we didn't just look at weight," she continued. "We looked at diabetes, and hypertension in mothers to see how those conditions affected their children. It was pretty significant."
The fifth annual World Autism Awareness Day is April 2, 2012. Every year, autism organizations around the world celebrate the day with unique fundraising and awareness-raising events.
"Over a third of U.S. women in their childbearing years are obese and nearly one-tenth have gestational or type 2 diabetes during pregnancy," said Paula Krakowiak, a biostatician with the MIND Institute.
"Our finding that these maternal conditions may be linked with neurodevelopment problems in children raises concerns and therefore may have serious public-health implications."
Not all children with autism has difficulty in communicating skills. I know someone with autism and he is smart and very active. The study also bring good news.
"The best thing about this is a lot of this can be modified," she said. "If you are thinking about getting pregnant, watch your weight and if you have diabetes have your doctor keep a close eye on you so you keep your glucose under control while you're carrying your baby," Dr. Hertz-Picciotto said.