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Obese Fathers Linked to Autism in Offspring

Photo Credit: jakarachuonyo via flickrA child born to an obese father has nearly double the risk for a condition within the autism spectrum.

A study published in Pediatrics, had researchers look at 93,000 children from the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study from birth to average age 7. Over the course of the study, 419 children were diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders (ASD).

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability  that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there is often nothing about how people with ASD look that sets them apart from other people, but people with ASD may communicate, interact, behave, and learn in ways that are different from most other people.

Overall, a child born to an obese father had a .27 percent risk of developing ASD, while a child born to a normal-weight father had a .15 percent risk, this includes Asperger’s syndrome for older children. Previous studies had linked maternal weight with ASD, but no such correlation was found in this research.

“We have a long way to go. We must study genetic factors in the relationship between obesity and autism, as well as environmental factors associated with switching the genes on or off – so-called epigenetic factors,” Dr. Pål Surén, lead researcher and professor of the Norwegian Institute of Public Health in Oslo, said in a news release.

Surén told that it’s possible that the fathers’ obesity has some direct effect — by altering sperm quality, for instance. But for now, that’s all speculation.

However, looking at the big picture,  there are still only a small number of children born with ASD, about 99 percent of children did not have autism or Asperger’s.  But as obesity rates rise in many developing countries, it could be a cause for concern and for more research to better understand the connection.

S.C. Rhyne is a blogger and novelist in New York City. Follow the author on Twitter @ReporterandGirl, and visit her website at

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