US scientists have used electronic medical records to verify a suspected link between autistic children and mothers with obesity and diabetes.
The study data revealed that pregnant mothers with obesity or gestational diabetes were 1.5 times more likely to have a child with an autism spectrum disorder compared to mothers of children without developmental disorders. The increased risk of autism spectrum disorders for pregnant mothers with both obesity and gestational diabetes was two-fold.
Among study participants, 487 mothers had a child with an autism spectrum disorder, 1,495 had a child with another type of developmental disorder, and 35,734 mothers of children without an autism spectrum disorder were included for control. The average age of mothers having children with an autism spectrum disorder was 28.6 years, and 27.4 years for both mothers of children with a developmental disorder and for controls.
“Although previous studies report a link between maternal obesity and diabetes during pregnancy to autism, we demonstrate that electronic medical data can verify and establish the extent of this link across large populations,” said senior author Katherine Bowers PhD MPH.
A second study, by researchers at UCLA, also used electronic health records for a more accurate and less expensive way to identify people who have undiagnosed type 2 diabetes, finding that they were able to vastly increase the number of correct diagnoses of the disease by refining the pool of candidates who were put forward for screening. They also uncovered several previously unknown risk factors for diabetes, including a history of sexual and gender identity disorders and intestinal infections.