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Your Environment. Your Health.

Autism Risk Linked to Maternal Diabetes and Obesity

Irva Hertz-Picciotto, Ph.D., Paula Krakowiak, Cheryl K. Walker, M.D., Sally Ozonoff, Ph.D., Robin L. Hansen, M.D.
University of California, Davis
NIEHS Grants R01ES015359 and P01ES011269


New findings from the NIEHS-funded Childhood Autism Risks from Genetics and the Environment (CHARGE) study provide evidence that maternal metabolic conditions can increase the risk for autism, as well as developmental delay without autistic symptoms. The study suggests that fetal exposure to elevated levels of glucose and maternal inflammation adversely affect fetal development.


The metabolic conditions studied included obesity or hypertension at the start of pregnancy, or diabetes during pregnancy. Compared to normal-weight mothers without diabetes or hypertension, the researchers found that mothers who were obese were 67 percent more likely to have a child with autism spectrum disorder and more than twice as likely to have a child with another developmental disorder. Mothers with diabetes were also more than twice as likely to have a child with developmental delays as healthy mothers. In addition, children with autism spectrum disorder and diabetic mothers had greater deficits in adaptive communication, language comprehension, and language production than children with autism spectrum disorder born to healthy mothers.


Citation: Krakowiak P, Walker CK, Bremer AA, Baker AS, Ozonoff S, Hansen RL, Hertz-Picciotto I. 2012. Maternal metabolic conditions and risk for autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders. Pediatrics; doi: 10.1542/peds.2011-2583 [Online 9 April 2012].

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