New Study Connects Autism & Obesity

By Nadia Crow, Reporter

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — A new study suggests a possible link between autism and obesity. The research says a pregnant mother who is obese is 67% more likely to have an autistic child. This is really the first study linking autism and the weight of mothers. Autism is proven to have a genetic basis and likely environmental factors. But this study found a 67% increase when obesity is considered. It's the first research to suggest such a link. And it's getting plenty of criticism.

"There are a lot of complications that go along with obesity and pregnancy," said Saint Luke's OB-GYN Dr. Beth Bussewitz. And a new study says the more overweight the birth mother the more the likelihood a child will fall on the autism spectrum. Dr. Bussewitz says she wasn't surprised by the findings. "Definitely more research needs to be done to confirm this kind of association. It's very interesting and that would be all the more reason to prevent obesity during pregnancy," said Bussewitz.

13-year-old Dallas Dircks is one of the thousands of Iowa kids diagnosed with Autism. He's also the son of one of KCRG's photojournalists. "After two years old that's when we started to notice development wasn't happening. He was slowly regressing and losing some of the skills he had," said East Central Iowa Autism Society President Cindy Dircks. Dallas' mother Cindy heads the East Central Iowa Autism Society and says many families in the chapter aren't happy with the new study. "They want more actions and less talk and money going towards where their child suffered and that goes into the environmental category," said Dircks.

Dircks also says the study didn't test enough people. "When the autism rate is one in 88 you can't look at one thousand and determine that's a viable cause," said Dircks.

Dr. Bussewitz says the medical community will wait to pass judgment. "Time will tell if this association is a strong one and then we'll have to do more about counseling our patients about obesity and pregnancy," said Dr. Bussewitz.

The Eastern Iowa Autism Society holds its annual walk on April 28th at 9 a.m. at Westdale Mall.


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