Study Finds Overweight Dads May Contribute to Autism Risk in Children
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has concluded that one in 68 U.S. children has been diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder.
A new study from the Norwegian Institute of Public Health has found that obese fathers may up the risk of autism in their children, despite the emphasis that is often put on a mother’s weight both before and during pregnancy.
Researchers studied nearly 93,000 Norwegian children before making their conclusions, and found a doubled risk for development of autism and Asperger’s syndrome in the child if the father was obese, compared with a normal weight father. (Please note: the odds are small. Just under 0.3 percent of kids with obese dads were diagnosed with autism, versus 0.14 percent of kids with fathers at healthy weights.)
Considering the fact that obesity is on the rise all over the globe, however, research on this topic will no doubt be explored further. One possibility is the “indirect” association of certain gene variations or environmental exposures with men that would contribute to autism risk. Researchers are also considering a “direct” effect, in which the father’s obesity alters sperm quality, leading to deformities that would cause autism.
Researchers have found a few hundred genes linked to autism risk, but overall they generally agree that it’s a complex mix of genetic vulnerability and environmental exposures. For example, studies have suggested certain factors like a mothers’ exposure to air pollution, low intake of the B vitamin folate and viral infections during pregnancy might be important.
At the end of the day, staying healthy both before and during pregnancy is one of the best things you can do for your child. And if you’re trying to get pregnant, it’s the best thing for father-to-be, too.
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