Maternal Diabetes and Obesity Can Put Baby at Risk for Autism

Photo: Thinkstock / The Bump Photo: Thinkstock / The Bump

Here’s another reason to watch your nutrition during pregnancy: Moms who have diabetes or are overweight are more likely to have a child with autism. A new study published in Pediatrics by researchers affiliated with the UC Davis MIND Institute found that moms who were obese were one to two-thirds more likely to have a child with autism and twice as likely to have a child with another developmental disorder. Researchers also found that autistic children of women who were diabetic had greater developmental problems, than autistic children born to moms without metabolic issues. Even kids without autism were negatively affected by mom’s metabolic conditions – they had mild development problems.

The study followed 1,004 moms and their babies between 24 and 60 months old. 517 of them had autism, 172 children had development disorders and 315 of them had no developmental problems. The researchers looked at demographic and medical information of the participants. The moms and babies were divided into three groups – children with autism, children with another developmental disability and children with normal development. It was found that 29 percent of children with autism and 35 percent of children with developmental disorders had moms with a metabolic or a diabetes condition, while 19 percent of children with no developmental problems had mothers who were obese or diabetic.

Researchers believe that obesity and diabetes in mothers are linked to autism in children because high glucose levels for mom can expose baby to high levels of insulin and make the fetus produce more insulin. Also, elevated insulin production requires a lot more oxygen, which could have caused a decreased oxygen supply for baby. Low levels of oxygen and fetal iron deficiency caused by diabetes can affect baby’s brain development in the womb.

What do you think of this study? What are you doing to eat better during pregnancy?