From vaccines to toxins in the environment, the cause of autism has been the subject of research for years, especially in recent times as rates have drastically risen and one in every 88 children is now said to have some form of the disease. Increasingly, however, research is pointing to what happens during a woman's pregnancy as a potential primary cause.
A new study released this weekend found a strong link between obesity in early pregnancy and autism. In fact, researchers found obese women were 67 percent more likely to have a child with autism than those who weren't obese. Their children were also found to have double the risk for other developmental delays. That's a major difference, but with rising rates of obesity and autism in this country, it also makes sense.
The study, which involved about 1,000 children, isn't conclusive by any means, but it certainly adds to the existing research that shows a link between obesity in women and other risks for their babies, such as stillbirth and pre-term births. Why the link? Scientists aren't sure, but they believe it could have something to do with inflammatory proteins in the fat cells of an obese mother.
Researcher Paula Krakowiak told MSNBC:
These same proteins are involved in the normal development of the brain. 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.
While I can only imagine the guilt overweight parents of autistic children may feel when reading this news, it's also filled with hope because if these findings are indeed accurate, then that means there may potentially be a way to prevent autism in some cases. Of course, obesity isn't the only cause as we all know plenty of thin people with autistic children, but it is an interesting link for sure and yet another reason women should do everything they can to maintain a healthy weight before getting pregnant. Wouldn't it be amazing if, as a nation, we could really diet our way to a decrease in autism?
Are you surprised to learn about this link between obesity and autism?
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