Lifestyle & Belief

Autism risk may be tied to mother's obesity during pregnancy, study says


Three independent studies released on April 4, 2012, showed that certain gene mutations could increase the chances of developing autism, and also that the risk increases with the age of the father.


Joe Raedle

New research suggests that autism is more likely to occur in children whose mothers were obese while pregnant.

Researchers with the UC Davis MIND Institute in California found that mothers-to-be who were obese were 67 percent more likely to have a child with autism as opposed to normal-weight mothers without diabetes or hypertension, CNN reported.

More from GlobalPost: Study: Autism linked to gene mutations and father's age

The study, one of the first of its kind, involved about 1,000 California children, ages 2 to 5. Researchers looked at their mothers' medical records and examined the association between obesity and autism, CBS News reported.

Researchers also found that pregnant moms with diabetes more than doubled their chance of having a child with developmental delays compared with healthy mothers, according to CBS News.

Dr. Daniel Coury, chief of developmental and behavioral pediatrics at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, told MSNBC the results "raise quite a concern."

More from GlobalPost: CDC: US autism rates jump 78 percent in past decade

US autism rates have increased along with obesity rates, and this new research suggests that may be more than a coincidence, Coury told MSNBC.

More research is needed to confirm the results. It's unclear whether diabetes or obesity is actually impacting the growth of the fetus, but it’s always possible that the women have something else in common, the study’s lead author, UC Davis doctoral student Paula Krakowiak, told MSNBC.

The study was published online in the April 9 issue of Pediatrics, according to CBS News.