Autism May Be Linked to Obesity During Pregnancy
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New research links maternal obesity with autism in children. It doesn't prove obesity causes autism, but the authors say their results raise public health concerns because of the high level of obesity in the U.S. (April 9)

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[Location: Los Angeles, CA ­ April 9, 2012][Source: AP]As if mothers-to-be needed one more thing to worry about... A new study shows a possible link between autistic children and obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes in their mothers.For moms like Cynthia Galvan, who's pregnant with her second child, that's good news, because diet and exercise is something she can control.[SOT/CYNTHIA GALVAN, Pregnant] "For me it's just 9 months of pregnancy.Why not eat healthy for 9 months and have a healthy child. Than eat unhealthy and have the risk of having an unhealthy child." :13Researchers at the University of California-Davis surveyed over a thousand children - some with autism, some with other kinds of developmental delays- and reviewed their mothers' medical records, looking for signs of obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes.[SOT/IRVA HERTZ-PICCIOTTO, UC Davis Prof. of Epidemiology] "So if you had at least one of those, you were at an about 60% high chance of having a child with autism or an autism spectrum disorder. And also a child with developmental delay - more than a 2-fold higher risk if the mom had one of those three conditions." :19This study breaks new ground - it's the first to point to metabolic disorders as one of many factors in the development of autism.Hertz-Picciotto (pih-cho-toe) emphasizes that the study is preliminary, and other researchers need to confirm and expand upon their results.At this Los Angeles playground, autism and its genetic causes is one of many worries that parents face. But the idea that the prenatal environment, along with genetic tendencies toward autism, give some parents hope that the puzzle of autism will be solved soon.[SOT/CYNTHIA SIMMONS, Mother of three] "It's too complex to figure out why some children are born with various developmental issues. But if you can control one factor perhaps science will be on our side." :20The research was published in Pediatrics online on Monday...and was partially funded by the National Institutes of Health.RMD, the AP, LA.[SIGOUT/REPORTER, LOCATION, ASSOCIATED PRESS](****END****) ANCHOR VOICE: Raquel Dillon-------------------------VIDEO PRODUCER: Raquel Dillon---------------------------VIDEO SOURCE: Raquel Dillon-----------------------VIDEO APPROVAL: dstarddard----------------------------VIDEO RESTRICTIONS: None----------------------------------MARKET EMBARGO (S): None--------------------------------SCRIPT/WIRE SOURCE: f2521BC-APFN-US--Autism-Moms' Obesity,1st Ld-WriteCHICAGO (AP) _ Obesity during pregnancy may increase chances for having a child with autism, provocative new research suggests. It's among the first studies linking the two, and though it doesn't prove obesity causes autism, the authors say their results raise public health concerns because of the high level of obesity in this country. Study women who were obese during pregnancy were about 67 percent more likely than normal-weight women to have autistic children. They also faced double the risk of having children with other developmental delays. On average, women face a 1 in 88 chance of having a child with autism; the results suggest that obesity during pregnancy would increase that to a 1 in 53 chance, the authors said. The study was released online Monday in Pediatrics. Since more than one-third of U.S. women of child-bearing age are obese, the results are potentially worrisome and add yet another incentive for maintaining a normal weight, said researcher Paula Krakowiak, a study co-author and scientist at the University of California, Davis. Previous research has linked obesity during pregnancy with stillbirths, preterm births and some birth defects. Dr. Daniel Coury, chief of developmental and behavioral pediatrics at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, said the results "raise quite a concern." He noted that U.S. autism rates have increased along with obesity rates and said the research suggests that may be more than a coincidence. More research is needed to confirm the results. But if mothers' obesity is truly related to autism, it would be only one of many contributing factors, said Coury, who was not involved in the study. Genetics has been linked to autism, and scientists are examining whether mothers' illnesses and use of certain medicines during pregnancy might also play a role. The study involved about 1,000 California children, ages 2 to 5. Nearly 700 had autism or other developmental delays, and 315 did not have those problems. Mothers were asked about their health. Medical records were available for more than half the women and confirmed their conditions. It's not clear how mothers' obesity might affect fetal development, but the authors offer some theories. Obesity, generally about 35 pounds overweight, is linked with inflammation and sometimes elevated levels of blood sugar. Excess blood sugar and inflammation-related substances in a mother's blood may reach the fetus and damage the developing brain, Krakowiak said. The study lacks information on blood tests during pregnancy. There's also no information on women's diets and other habits during pregnancy that might have influenced fetal development. There were no racial, ethnic, education or health insurance differences among mothers of autistic kids and those with unaffected children that might have influenced the results, the researchers said. The National Institutes of Health helped pay for the study.