We’ve known for a pretty long while that being overweight isn’t good for us. And of course, diabetes isn’t exactly a walk in the park. But so far, we thought that the only people we were hurting with our less than healthy lifestyles were ourselves. But that might not be true, as it would seem, as maternal obesity and diabetes increase chance of autism.
As it turns out, depending on how advanced your obesity and/or diabetes is, the higher the chance for children to be born with ASD.
ASD, or autism spectrum disorder, includes such ‘classic’ affliction as autism, Asperger’s syndrome, as well as other developmental disorders.
Generally, one in 68 United States children is born with something on the autism spectrum, meaning that 1.5% of the country’s children are affected.
The study showing the link between obesity, diabetes and autism
The team of researchers behind the study held their observations at the Boston Medical Center, looking at the data from 2,734 mothers and their children.
Data was analyzed for mother-child pairings going back 16 years, from 1998 to 2014.
Fortunately for the parents, most of the children, 64% to be more exact, were not diagnosed with any disorder on the spectrum; 102 of them, however, were reported to have disorders of the ASD type.
The study was observational, as well as a meta-analysis, decreasing the accuracy of the findings, but I’ll get into that later.
Increased risk factors for the offspring
The team was surprised to find the numbers were so high, but they went on with the testing anyway, ignoring any biases.
As it turns out, around 3% of all infants born to women that are obese or have diabetes are born with an ASD.
The chances are even higher for children of both obese and diabetic mothers, with 5% to 6% percent of them being born on with an ASD.
Children with and ASD were more likely to be boys, born underweight, as well as before their term.
Obesity by itself was linked to a 92% increase in the risk for developing autism, while pre-pregnancy diabetes tripled the risk.
The risk increased more than five-fold for women with both conditions.
Unavoidable limitations of the study
Because of the intrinsic nature of observational studies, the scientists had no way of determining how exactly the two conditions influenced the risk of ASDs; they only managed to point out that there was a link.
Additionally, because of the meta-analysis nature of the study, researchers were unable to get their hands on any more data related to the issue than that which was already in the subjects’ files.
Image source: Wikimedia