New research has suggested that obesity in the mother is likely to be a contributory factor for the development of autism or related learning difficulties in children.
“If there is anything you can do to make yourself healthier, this is yet another reason for moms to consider,” said Paula Krakowiak, a researcher at the University of California, Davis, who led the study.
The study, of more than 1,000 children between the ages of two and five, examined children’s cognitive development and the existence of various metabolic conditions in the mother and the strongest link was found to be between obesity and autism-related problems.
“There is definitely an association present and it adds to the reasons for finding ways to lower obesity rates or diabetes rates and make greater efforts to change lifestyle factors,” Krakowiak said.
She and her colleagues also noted that nearly 60 percent of U.S. women of childbearing age are overweight, one third are obese and 16 percent have so-called metabolic syndrome – a constellation of symptoms, including high blood pressure and insulin resistance, that raise heart risk.
The result is not that surprising considering a recent report from the CDC estimated that one in 88 children now has an autism-spectrum disorder and that this represented a 25% increase over the past five years. Obesity rates have also been rising in the US for some time with many people warning about associated health risks.
States around the US have recently become more aware of the impact child obesity has on their learning ability, education and later health issues. If successful these programs may go some way to reversing the current obesity crisis in the nation’s youth and result in fewer obese mothers in later generations.
It should be noted that the study doesn’t prove a link between obesity and autism-spectrum development, it merely notes the parallel and more research is needed to confirm the link and investigate how the interaction works.