Can maternal obesity increase autism risk in children?
Children of obese women with diabetes are more than 4 times more likely to suffer from an autism spectrum disorder. These are the findings from a study conducted at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health in Baltimore, USA. The researchers analysed 2,734 mother-child pairs for the study, between 1998 and 2014. By collecting data on maternal weight and diabetes status, and comparing this with prevalence of autism in the children, they were able to conclude that children whose mothers were both diabetic and obese were 4 times more likely to have an autism spectrum disorder than their healthier mother-child counterparts.
The research highlights that the risk of autism begins in utero, and the authors are now keen to figure out the mechanisms behind the development of autism in these children. Previous studies have made a link between maternal diabetes and autism, however this is the first that looks at the combination of diabetes and obesity. The researchers wanted to make women of child-bearing age aware of these risks and the implications that it could have on their children. However, they do concede that more needs to be done in order to fully understand the process.