Published : Tuesday, June 26, 2018 | 5:16 AM
Women with diabetes could be at much greater risk of having children with an autism disorder, new research by a Kaiser Permanente team in Pasadena shows.
The study, published online last Saturday in the Journal of the American Medical Association, suggests that the risk includes women who did not have diabetes before they got pregnant but developed the disease while carrying their babies. It also includes those who had had type 1 diabetes throughout their lives.
The report was also presented at the American Diabetes Association annual meeting in Orlando, Florida, according to health news outlet Health Day.
Speaking to Health Day, the researchers said whether it’s type 1, type 2 or gestational diabetes (diabetes that develops during a woman’s pregnancy), having the blood sugar disease might be linked to an increased autism risk.
“The risk appears to be highest in type 1, then type 2 and gestational diabetes,” Dr. Anny Xiang, Director of the Division of Biostatistics Research at the Southern California Permanente Medical Group in Pasadena, said.
Xiang, however, cautioned that this study cannot prove that a mother’s diabetes causes autism, only that they seem to be associated.
The study suggests that the risk varies according to the type of diabetes and whether it was diagnosed early or late during the pregnancy. When diagnosed early, there is a greater risk the child could be affected, Xiang told Health Day.
Xiang attributes the risk to inflammation, the toxic levels of glucose, and the effects of maternal diabetes to the immune system.
The Kaiser Permanente team collected data on more than 400,000 children born from 1995 to 2012 in Kaiser Permanente hospitals in Southern California for the study.
They found that more than 5,600 children developed autism within an average of seven years from birth. The team found that the mothers of about three to four percent of the children who developed autism had either type 1 or type 2 diabetes diagnosed within 26 weeks of pregnancy, the report said.
Xiand told Health Day it isn’t clear why diabetes might be tied to an increased risk of autism; it’s also unclear if controlling diabetes could lower the risk of autism.
In the U.S., one in every 59 children has some form of autism, data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows. One in every 37 boys, and one in every 151 girls, is afflicted, according to the data.
Xiang suggested that screening for autism risk in children born to mothers with type 1, type 2, and gestational diabetes may be warranted for early intervention.