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Autism linked to obesity in pregnancy

Association may spark research into possible biological mechanism

3:43pm, April 9, 2012

Obese women are more likely to have children who develop autism than are normal-weight women, a new study suggests. The finding adds another possible explanation for the apparent rise in autism.

Reporting in the May Pediatrics, researchers also found that women who were obese or had some form of diabetes during pregnancy were more likely to have kids with developmental delays other than autism. And tests show that a woman’s obesity, diabetes or high blood pressure during pregnancy might have an effect on her offspring even if they don't have autism, placing them at risk of slightly impaired learning.

The new research “sheds light on potential risk factors for autism and underscores the importance for people who are pregnant — or trying to get pregnant — of controlling their risks,” says epidemiologist Hannah Gardener of the University of Miami. “This is a very strong study.”

The authors note, however, that t

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