Obesity and autism – Are they linked?
Are obesity and autism linked? A new study shows that obese pregnant women are 60 percent more likely to give birth to a child with autism than women of a healthy weight—and twice as likely to have a child with some developmental disorder. About a third of American women of reproductive age are now considered obese. Last month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that one in 88 children has autism or a related disorder, such as Asperger’s syndrome—up from one in 110 several years ago.
The study doesn’t prove a causal connection between obesity and autism, but the fetal brain is “susceptible to everything that’s happening in the mother’s body,” says study author Irva Hertz-Picciotto, an epidemiologist at the University of California, Davis. Her theory is that overweight mothers tend to have insulin disorders that can increase inflammation in fetal brain tissue, damaging its ability to take in necessary nutrients and oxygen at key developmental stages. Another risk factor: ‘The mother’s body’ Researchers have established a significant genetic component to autism, but the obesity finding is in line with recent studies pointing to other factors, including older parental age and air pollution.