Before you start to panic about the cupcake you wolfed down last night with that ice cream chaser, no, pregnancy weight gain is not the cause of autism. But according to Science Daily, a study out of the University of Utah says there is a link between pregnancy pounds and babies that end up being on the autism spectrum. According to researchers, added weight or fat in the body can change various hormone levels or be a sign of inflammation, which can then in turn impact your baby's fetal development. So the pregnancy weight gain can be a marker for autism, but not a cause of it.
Autism spectrum disorders—which affect 1 to 2 percent of the population, or one in 88 children in the U. S.—are neuro-developmental disabilities that can range from mild to more severe. Children with autism display social problems, communication difficulties, and restricted and repetitive patterns of behavior. The study looked at a group of 128 children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders and compared them with a control group of 10,920 children of the same ages and genders. A second group of 288 children with autism were also studied against data of their unaffected siblings.
The study, which was published in the November edition of the journal Pediatrics, found that small increases in weight—in 5-pound increments—while pregnant were linked to "a slightly higher but significant risk for autism". The crazy thing is there was an average difference of only about 3 pounds in weight gain when comparing mothers of children with and without autism.
The authors of the study fully admit more research needs to be done on the matter to help identify what actually causes autism (according to Desert News, next up they will take blood samples "during the pregnancy of autism-related cases. If biomarkers are found showing a higher risk of the condition, the study states that a window of clinical opportunity could emerge for this mechanism of injury to be prevented." Prevention could range from educating moms-to-be about wellness programs to development of drugs to counteract the weight gain. Until more conclusions are made, researchers warn there is no need to freak out and change your diet just yet!
TELL US: Will you be watching your weight more closely because of this study?
Image of pregnant woman courtesy of Shutterstock.