Study finds association between mother's larger waist size, child's autism risk

March 19, 2018, The Endocrine Society

A new study finds children born to mothers who had a larger waist size before pregnancy may be more likely to have autism than those whose mothers had a smaller pre-pregnancy waist. The research results will be presented Monday, March 19, at ENDO 2018, the 100th annual meeting of the Endocrine Society in Chicago, Ill.

"Children born to mothers with a waist of 80 centimeters (31 ½ inches) or more before pregnancy showed a 65 percent increase in the risk of than those born to a mother with a smaller waist," said lead author Geum Joon Cho, M.D., Ph.D., visiting scholar in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University in Chicago, Ill., and associate professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Korea University College of Medicine, Seoul, Republic of Korea.

"It is assumed there are multiple factors that cause autism, both inherited and environmental," Cho said. "Of the , emerging evidence has linked maternal pre-pregnancy obesity to the risk of autism in offspring. However, other studies have reported no associations between the two conditions. We wanted to investigate this association further."

Previous studies that investigated the association between a mother's obesity and her child's autism used body mass index (BMI) as an indication of body fat mass, Cho said. "However, BMI is based on weight and does not differentiate between and lean mass," he said. Waist circumference is the best way to measure visceral fat—body fat that is stored within the abdominal cavity and is therefore stored around a number of important internal organs such as the liver, pancreas and intestines.

The researchers reviewed data for 36,451 mothers who delivered a single live infant between 2007 and 2008 and underwent a National Health Screening Examination within one year of their pregnancy. The babies were followed up through 2015 to see if they developed autism. The researchers found 265 (0.76%) in the study had been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder.

While maternal obesity, as defined by a of 80 centimeters or more, increased the odds of autism by 65 percent, obesity defined by BMI alone was not associated with an increased risk of autism.

Cho said inflammation may play a key role in the link between obesity and autism. "Both intrauterine inflammation and fetal brain inflammation are implicated in the development of autism," Cho said. "As obesity increases, circulating immune system proteins called inflammatory cytokines in pregnant women and the inflammation associated with maternal obesity may be related to the development of autism. Waist circumference, as a measure of central , is associated with an increase in inflammatory cytokines, which is known to be involved in the development of autism."

"The findings suggest the need for clinicians to monitor for , based on waist circumference, to minimize the risk of development of in offspring," Cho said. "Further studies are needed to evaluate whether altering maternal waist circumference would lessen the risk of the development of autism in offspring."

Explore further: Time between pregnancies may affect autism risk

Related Stories

Time between pregnancies may affect autism risk

November 22, 2017
Investigators have found a link between the amount of time between pregnancies and Autism Spectrum Disorder in children. The findings are published in Autism Research.

Low fitness is associated with larger waist size and higher degree of inflammation

January 17, 2018
Low fitness is associated with a larger waist size and a higher degree of inflammation, according to a study published January 17, 2018 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Anne-Sophie Wedell-Neergaard from the University ...

BMI is underestimating obesity in Australia, waist circumference needs to be measured too

December 20, 2017
A new study has found the waistlines of Australian adults are increasing faster than body weight.

Pre-pregnancy BMI important indicator of offspring obesity

April 17, 2012
(HealthDay) -- Maternal gestational weight gain (GWG) during the first 20 weeks of pregnancy correlates with body mass index (BMI)-based overweight/obesity and abdominal obesity at age 16, but maternal pre-pregnancy BMI is ...

Children born to obese, overweight mothers may be at higher risk for neurodevelopmental problems, study finds

November 22, 2017
Compared with children of normal-weight mothers, children born to mothers who were overweight or obese immediately prior to pregnancy are at a higher risk for neurodevelopmental problems including attention deficit disorder, ...

Higher maternal age predicts risk of autism

April 26, 2012
In a study published in the May 2012 issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, led by Mr. Sven Sandin, of the Karolinska Institutet, Sweden and King's College London, researchers analyzed ...

Recommended for you

Autism risk determined by health of mom's gut, research reveals

July 18, 2018
The risk of developing autism-spectrum disorders is determined by the mother's microbiome—the collection of microorganisms that naturally live inside us—during pregnancy, new research from the University of Virginia School ...

Brain scans yield more clues to autism

July 17, 2018
(HealthDay)—Children with autism show abnormalities in a deep brain circuit that typically makes socializing enjoyable, a new study finds.

Autism spectrum disorder linked to shape of brain's cerebellum

July 11, 2018
Structural differences in the cerebellum may be linked to some aspects of autism spectrum disorder, according to a neuroimaging study from Columbia University Irving Medical Center (CUIMC).

Autistic people do want to socialize, they may just show it differently

June 28, 2018
A new paper led by the University of Virginia and just published in the journal Behavioral and Brain Sciences is pushing back hard on the notion that people with autism are not interested in socializing.

Researchers discover promising treatment for genetic form of autism spectrum disorder

June 26, 2018
It may soon be possible to reverse a genetic form of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) by using drugs initially developed to treat cancer.

CRISPR editing reduces repetitive behavior in mice with a form of autism

June 25, 2018
Scientists have used CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing to lessen some autism symptoms in mice with a form of fragile X syndrome, the most common known single-gene cause of autism spectrum disorder.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.