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Study Examines Link Between Obesity, Diabetes and Autism

4/9/2012 For Release: April 9, 2012

Many studies have found an association between maternal diabetes and general development impairments, but few have investigated possible connections between autism and conditions like diabetes and obesity during pregnancy. In the May 2012 Pediatrics study, “Maternal Metabolic Conditions and Risk for Autism and Other Neurodevelopmental Disorders,” (published online April 9) researchers examined 1,004 children aged 2 to 5 years enrolled in the CHARGE (Childhood Autism Risks from Genetics and the Environment) study from 2003 to 2010. In that group, 517 children had autism, 172 children had other developmental disorders, and 315 were developing typically. Study authors report for the first time, a strong association between metabolic conditions during pregnancy (diabetes, obesity and hypertension), and autism spectrum disorder or developmental delays. Obese mothers had 1.6 times the chance of having a child with autism, and were more than twice as likely to have a child with another developmental disorder. Mothers with diabetes were 2.3 times more likely to have a child with developmental delays. Children of mothers with diabetes also performed lower on language and communication tests compared to children of mothers without metabolic conditions. Study authors conclude that the rising rates of obesity and diabetes may be directly associated with neurodevelopmental problems in children, and that these data, therefore, raise serious public health concerns.



The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 60,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists dedicated to the health, safety and well-being of infants, children, adolescents and young adults. For more information, visit


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