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New study links maternal metabolic risk factors to autism
04.09.2012Healthcare and wellness programs may be important for pregnant women who are overweight or have diabetes. New research suggests that metabolic risk factors may increase the chances that a woman will deliver a child with autism or other developmental delays.
The number of children born with autism has been increasing steadily over the course of the last few years. Meanwhile, obesity and diabetes rates have also risen. The researchers said their findings suggest these two trends may be linked.
For the study, researchers from the University of California, Davis, analyzed the medical records of more than 1,000 mother-child pairs. The results showed that women who were obese at the time of delivery were roughly 70 percent more likely to have a child with autism. Diabetics were more than twice as likely to deliver a child with other developmental delays. These women also had more autistic children, but it was not clear if this association was statistically significant.
The researchers speculated that the link between maternal metabolic disorders and childhood developmental problems may be a result of high insulin. If a pregnant woman is overweight or has diabetes, the developing fetus will be exposed to high levels of glucose. This likely prompts the fetus' body to produce more insulin, a process that requires oxygen. In order to keep up with insulin demands, oxygen may be diverted from the fetus' developing brain.
"Our finding that these maternal conditions may be linked with neurodevelopmental problems in children raises concerns and therefore may have serious public-health implications," said researcher Paula Krakowiak.
She pointed out that nearly 60 percent of women of childbearing age are overweight or obese, and 16 percent have metabolic syndrome.
Categories: Health and Wellness
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