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Researchers study possible link between pregnancy weight gain and autism

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Posted at 11:48 AM, Oct 28, 2013
and last updated 2013-10-28 13:48:04-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- Researchers at the University of Utah said they have found a link between pregnancy weight gain and autism in some situations.

Utah has the highest rate of children diagnosed with autism in the country. One in 63 children in Utah have an autism spectrum disorder, according for the Centers for Disease Control. Autism spectrum disorders are a group of developmental brain disorders that impair a child's ability to communicate and socialize.

Those findings are prompting the medical community to look at new clues that may reveal pieces of the autism puzzle.

In a new study, University of Utah researchers found only a three pound difference in weight gain during pregnancy between the mothers of children with autism and those not affected. Their findings suggest that weight gain itself does not cause autism spectrum disorders, but could be a link to something else.

"We found no relation between pre-pregnancy BMI in either group of the mother and the development of autism," said Dr. Deborah Bilder, Medical Director of the Neurobehavior HOME program at the University of Utah. "It's because of the consistency between these groups that we feel like we're on to something in a sense and that we really need to pursue it further."

Bilder said they plan to use these findings to take a closer look at whether hormones, inflammation and other factors interact with genetics to cause weight gain and autism during pregnancy.

The study is featured in the November edition of the Journal Pediatrics.