Pregnancy

An Autistic Child May Only Be One Obese Mommy Away

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autism riskThe obesity epidemic impacts families from all angles now what with childhood obesity jacking up diabetes rates and mothers unable to conceive due to “fat ovaries.” But for ladies who maintain their obesity well into pregnancy, an autistic child might not be that far off either.

Msnbc reports that in a recent study, researchers analyzed the medical data of 517 autistic children, 172 children with developmental disorders, and 315 “typically developing” children. Researchers concluded that obese mothers — those wh0 were about 35 pounds overweight or more or had a BMI of 25  — faced an autism risk of 70% when it came to their babies. The risk for other neurodevelopmental disorders doubled in response to obesity as well. And science seems to have a good idea why:

A possible culprit is the inflammatory proteins produced by the fat cells of an obese mom. “These same proteins are involved in the normal development of the brain,”[Paula Krakowiak, a Ph. D. candidate at the University of California, Davis.] said. “When the level of those immunological markers is higher or lower than the normal range it might affect how the brain develops in an adverse way. And at least one type has been shown to be able to cross over the placenta to the fetus.”…

“When they’re growing at a faster rate, they require more oxygen and if the mom doesn’t provide enough oxygen then that could also cause some problems with brain development,” Krakowiak said.

Doctors also note that autism rates have elevated along side obesity rates — which could be mere coincidence. At present, it’s unclear whether diabetes or obesity alone is affecting the growth and development of the fetus, meaning that more research is needed in this arena. But the tenuous link does give expecting mothers who struggle with weight one more reason to be mindful of that scale.

Not only is the obesity epidemic compromising the health of mothers, fathers, and tots of all ages, but the development of the unborn as well.

(photo: Gelpi/Shutterstock)