It is clear that obesity and diabetes are undesirable for good health, but studies now link obesity and autism, particularly obese women with diabetes. If you have not found the impetus to lose weight before, what better reason to address your health and weight issues than when you are planning to start a family?

What is Autism?

The exact cause of Autism Spectrum Disorder is unknown, but studies show that there may be a genetic predisposition, environmental or other factors that increase the likelihood of children developing the symptoms of this complex condition. Symptoms of autism include inappropriate social interaction, repetitive behavior and slow speech development and poor non-verbal communication.

Association between Diabetes and Autism

A recent study published by the journal Pediatrics showed that obese women with diabetes who became pregnant were at four times the risk of giving birth to a child with autism than normal-weight women who did not have diabetes. Obese mothers who developed gestational diabetes during their pregnancy were also found to be at higher risk of having a child with Autism Specific Disorder, suggesting that the risk for autism begins in the uterus.

The study looked at the data collected from 2,734 mothers who gave birth between 1998 and 2014. The data included the pre-pregnancy weight of the mothers and whether there was any evidence of diabetes before or during the pregnancy. From the selected participants, over 100 children were later diagnosed with Autism Specific Disorder.

The findings clearly showed that obese mothers with diabetes were four times more likely to give birth to an autistic child than other mothers. The study also showed an association between obesity and autism and diabetes and autism, according to Xiaobin Wang, the leader of the study at the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

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Obesity and Autism

Other studies have found that mothers with diabetes, hypertension and or diabetes are more likely than healthy women to have children with Autism Specific Disorders or developmental delays.

More information about the environmental causes of autism can be found on the CHARGE website (Childhood Autism Risks from Genetics and the Environment) which provides information and evaluation assessments for children with autism. The CHARGE study, led by UC Davis epidemiologist Paula Krakowiak, studied 1,004 Californian children aged under 5, of which 517 had Autism Spectrum Disorder, 172 had development issues and 315 showed normal development.

The study found that obese mothers were 1.67 times more likely to have a child with autism and twice as likely to have a child with slow development. Mothers with diabetes were 2.33 times more likely to produce a child with developmental issues, suggesting a significant association between diabetes and autism or slower development.

If you are planning to start a family, the first step should be to establish a healthy diet and normal weight to minimize the risk of your child developing this disorder.