Is pregnancy weight gain linked to autism?

Many women wonder about the amount of weight gain that's appropriate during their pregnancy, especially if it's their first time. A new study centered in Utah indicated that many women have been gaining too much, and that this  type of excessive weight gain may be linked to the development of autism spectrum disorders.

According to the study, conducted by the University of Utah, women who gained more were more likely to give birth to children with ASD. Researchers looked at two separate test groups. In the first, researchers compared 128 8-year-old children diagnosed with ASD with a control group of 10,920 children of the same age. The second test group included 288 children with ASD and their unaffected siblings. Data indicated that the common variable among the affected children was the excessive weight gain by the mother during pregnancy.

However, study authors caution people from assuming that the weight gain is automatically the cause of ASD. More research is needed to determine the exact connection.

"These findings suggest that weight gain during pregnancy is not the cause of ASD but rather may reflect an underlying process that it shares with autism spectrum disorders, such as abnormal hormone levels or inflammation," said Deborah Bilder, M.D., lead author of the study and an associate professor of psychiatry at the university.

Though excessive weight gain is not likely the cause of autism, the Mayo Clinic warned that attention to nutrition and health is critical for baby development. Women should follow the advice of their doctor or nutritionist to ensure a healthy pregnancy.

Are you surprised to learn that excessive weight gain may be linked to ASD? Share your opinion in the comments section.