Increased risk of autism in the babies of obese and diabetic moms



A recent study suggests that obesity and diabetes in moms can pose a higher risk for autism to their babies.

In the study, the children of mothers getting obese before pregnancy were nearly twice as likely to be diagnosed with autism by the age of 6, compared with those born to women whose normal weight before they got pregnant.


The researchers also found that the babies born to women who had developed diabetes before they got pregnant showed a greater risk; these kids were more than twice as likely to be diagnosed with autism by age 6, compared with children born to women without diabetes.

However, the babies born to women who had both obesity and diabetes were nearly four times more likely to be diagnosed with autism by this age, compared with those children born to women without obesity and diabetes. The potential that autism starts before birth was also stressed in the study. The disease can develop even when the baby was still in the mom’s uterus, according to study author and chair of the department of mental health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, M. Daniele Fallin.

In the study, 2700 children were looked at the rates of autism and intellectual disabilities, their mothers were also examined their weights and potential of diabetes before or during their pregnancies. Their data was then collected from interviews with the mothers and their medical records. Among these children, 102 were diagnosed with autism and 137 were diagnosed with intellectual disabilities by the age 6. The study also showed that the children born to women with both obesity and diabetes were posed a higher risk of intellectual disabilities than other children born to mothers who had normal health conditions.

Although the link between a mother’s obesity and diabetes and a child’s risk of autism has not clear, it’s suggested by researchers that those diseases may disrupt the functions of the mother’s immune system, which may promote autism growth in the child. Both diseases may also promote inflammation in the mother, and inflammations in the intrauterine and fetal brain have been implicated in the autism growth in babies, the study said.

This link can be also based on folate mechanism. As folate supplementation is one of the protective factors for autism, so that obesity disrupt the uptake of folate may increase the risk of autism in the baby in the fetus. Folate, also called folic acid, is a type of vitamin B, which can be supplemented with medications. However, it’s difficult for pregnant women to use the chemical properly.

The new study was published on Jan 29, in the journal Pediatrics.

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