Children born to mothers who are obese and diabetic are over four times as likely to be diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder than children whose mothers have healthy weight and do not suffer from diabetes, according to new research from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
Study leader Xiaobin Wang, Professor in Child Health at the Bloomberg School, said, "We have long known that obesity and diabetes aren't good for mothers' own health. Now we have further evidence that these conditions also impact the long-term neural development of their children."
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Autism in the U.S. population has steadily risen since the 1960s—one in 68 children in the country is now diagnosed with the disorder. At the same time, rates of obesity and diabetes in women of reproductive age have also risen to epidemic levels.
According to a summary of the findings, "The biology of why obesity and diabetes may contribute to autism risk isn't well understood. Obesity and diabetes in general cause stress on the human body, the researchers say. Previous research suggests maternal obesity may be associated with an inflammation in the developing fetal brain. Other studies suggest obese women have less folate, a B-vitamin vital for human development and health."
The researchers note that women should pay attention to pregnancy as well as their pre-pregnancy health.
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