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title pic Autism and Maternal Obesity

Posted by Claudia Grazioso on April 18, 2012

Autism and Maternal Obesity

When I was pregnant, there were certain people I came to view as the Self-appointed Non-pregnant Pregnancy Patrol. These were the people — often strangers or just passing acquaintances! — who would scrutinize everything I put in my mouth, and constantly eyeball how much weight I seemed to have gained. It was infuriating and, I thought, intrusive for people to be so obsessed with my weight. But there’s a new study out that has made me start thinking more about my pregnancy weight. Though it’s not entirely conclusive, this study seems to link maternal weight issues with an increased risk for autism.

Released online in Pediatrics, this study found that children whose moms were obese, suffered from diabetes or hypertension had at least a 60 percent higher risk of being diagnosed with a neurological development problem, including autism. The rate of autism nationwide is now a staggering 1 out of 88 children, but in kids whose moms are significantly overweight, the number seems to be as high as 1 out of 53. This is one of the first studies to link the two health issues, and so researchers are quick to point out that we don’t know exactly how the two may be linked. One theory is that the elevated levels of glucose in the maternal blood impact a baby’s developing brain. Some researchers also point out that with 34 percent of women of childbearing age being clinically obese, obesity is also an epidemic in this country. They theorize that perhaps the rise in obesity and autism might be the result of some not-yet-identified environmental factor.

There is a lot we don’t yet know about autism and its causes, but it seems that maternal obesity could be one factor. As we continue to learn more about this frequently very confusing condition, it might be best to err on the side of caution. If you are pregnant, try to maintain a healthy weight; eat foods that are good for you and will give you and your developing baby the best nutrition you can find. Look at it this way: You’ll need to be in the best shape possible for those Learning To Walk years.

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