Paternal obesity as a risk factor for autism


Several studies have looked at the link between maternal obesity and developmental disorders in children. But a new study shows that paternal obesity may be an equal if not greater concern.

First of its kind, more study needed

“We have a long way to go. We must study genetic factors in the relationship between obesity and autism, as well as environmental factors associated with switching the genes on or off – so-called epigenetic factors,” explained Dr. Pal Suren, Norwegian Institute of Public Health.

Surprise findings

The researchers used data from the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study (MoBa). The data was culled from over 90,000 Norwegian children. Approximately .45% of the sample children had an autism spectrum diagnosis. About 22% of the mothers and 43% of the fathers were overweight. Approximately 10% of both parents were obese. Researchers found that maternal obesity had little correlation to the autism diagnosis. Instead they found a doubled risk for autism and Asperger’s when the father was obese.

Not enough research being done on paternal influence

“We were very surprised by these findings because we expected that maternal obesity would be the main risk factor for the development of ASD. It means that we have had too much focus on the mother and too little on the father. This is probably reflects the fact that we have given greater focus to conditions in pregnancy, such as the growth environment for the fetus in the womb than both environmental and genetic factors before conception,” noted Suren.

“We have begun to sequence all genes to find mutations and we must do more epigenetic analysis. If there is a correlation between obesity and ASD this is a risk factor where the incidence is increasing the population. Further research is therefore of great importance to public health,” said Suren.

Source: MedicalNewsToday, Norwegian Institute of Public Health

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