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Low birth weight connected to autism


A growing body of evidence suggests that environmental factors may affect the development of autism, a serious developmental disorder affecting up to 10% of American children with diagnoses growing every year. A new study suggests that birth weight may have something to do with development of the serious disease.

“Our study of discordant twins – twin pairs in which only one twin was affected by ASD [autism spectrum disorders] – found birth weight to be a very strong predictor of autism spectrum disorder,” said Northwestern University researcher Molly Losh. Losh is lead author of the study that will be published in the Journal Psychological Medicine and is available on line.

Usually with identical twins, if one has ASD, so does the other. This has led to some strong evidence of the genetic basis for the disease. However, it’s not always the case that both identical twins have autism. Researchers found that lower birth weight more than tripled the risk for autism in identical twin pairs in which one has ASD.

“That only one twin is affected by ASD in some identical tin pairs suggests that environmental factors may play a role either independently or in interaction with autism risk genes,” says Losh. “And because autism is a developmental disorder impacting brain development early on, it suggests that prenatal and perinatal environmental factors may be of particular importance.”

He adds that, "There’s been a great deal of misinformation about the causes of autism -- from the 1950s misconception that the distant maternal behavior of what were dubbed ‘refrigerator mothers’ was at fault to the ill-informed myth that vaccines can cause autism."

There is a growing body of evidence that suggests there are complex causes of autism and perhaps birth weigh is one of those many things that contributes to the condition.

Source: ScienceDaily, Psychological Medicine

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