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Mothers' Combination of Obesity and Diabetes Significantly Increases Risk of Autism in Children

​Among women of reproductive age, according to the latest statistics, more than a third are obese and nearly one in 10 are affected by diabetes. While each condition individually increases the likelihood that children born to these women will have autism, a study in the February 2016 issue of Pediatrics shows, the combined effect is significantly greater. The study, "The Association of Maternal Obesity and Diabetes with Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities" (published online Jan. 29), looked at 2,734 mother-child pairs who were enrolled and followed at Boston Medical Center between 1998 and 2014.  Mothers who were obese before becoming pregnant had a two-fold risk of having a child with autism compared to normal weight or underweight mothers.  The rate was similar among women who developed diabetes before or during pregnancy.  Among babies born to mothers with both conditions, however, the autism risk was almost 4 times higher.  Obesity and diabetes combined also significantly increased the children's risk of having intellectual disabilities. The authors said the "multiple hits" maternal obesity and diabetes deliver may have a greater impact on a developing fetal brain than either condition alone.


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