New York: Women of reproductive age who are thinking of having children should stay fit. A recent study warns that children born to obese women with diabetes are four times more likely to be diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder.
Autism spectrum disorder is a serious neuro-developmental condition characterised by severe deficits in socialisation, verbal and nonverbal communication and repetitive behaviours.
The findings of the study highlight a theory about autism that the risk factors develop likely before the child is even born.
"We have long known that obesity and diabetes aren't good for mothers' health," said study author Xiaobin Wang from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in the US.
"Now we have further evidence that these conditions also impact the long-term neural development of their children," Wang added.
For the study, published in the journal Paediatrics, researchers analysed 2,734 mother-child pairs between 1998 and 2014.
They collected data on maternal pre-pregnancy weight and whether the mothers had diabetes before getting pregnant or whether they developed gestational diabetes during pregnancy.
Over 100 children were diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder over the course of the study claimed to be the first to look at obesity and diabetes in tandem as potential risk factors.
"Our research highlights that the risk for autism begins in utero," said another researcher M Daniele Fallin.
The children whose mothers were both diabetic and obese were more than four times as likely to develop autism compared to children born to normal weight mothers without diabetes, the study found.
Along with pre-conception diabetes, children of obese mothers who developed gestational diabetes during pregnancy were also at a significantly higher risk of being diagnosed with autism.
Obesity and diabetes in general cause stress on the human body, the researchers concluded.