The Obesity and Autism Link
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Photo by Pawel Loj

There is a new and alarming way the obesity epidemic is affecting children – before they are even born. A new study in the journal Pediatrics suggests that being overweight and having Type 2 diabetes dramatically raises the risk of a woman having a child with autism.

We’ve known for a long time that what a woman does during her pregnancy effects the health of her child. That’s why doctors are quick to prescribe prenatal vitamins and help her to quit smoking.  We also know that being a healthy weight can have a big impact on a woman’s ability to conceive and having a complication free pregnancy.

The newly published study indicated another potential complication from being obese, having Type 2 diabetes or high blood pressure. After looking at a sample of 1000 children, the researchers found a 60 percent increase in the risk for autism if the mother had one of these three conditions. Obesity proved to be the most common risk factor.

The why is still being studied but there are 2 potential reasons. One could be these conditions increase inflammation, which affects the developing brain tissue. Another could be nutrients aren’t reaching the fetus due to the body’s inability to use insulin.

To me, though, the why isn’t as important as the what. The what is we have an obesity problem that is effecting the lives of women and children in ways that are bigger than a clothing size or being picked on. It is one more reason that our focus should not just be on weight loss, but real fitness and health. Weight loss is part of the equation for sure, but the diet industry focuses on short-term fixes and not real solutions to make women (and children) healthier.  Diets need to go and nourishing and strengthening our bodies needs to be the focus.

The impact of not taking ownership of our health and fitness is being understood more and more. The government, insurance companies and doctors aren’t going to fix this problem. It’s up to you and me. It’s up to us as women to demand better food, easier access to sound health information and safe neighborhoods conducive to activity. I’m not asking anyone to subsidize my running shoes, just give me and everyone else a fighting chance to make our lives healthier and to give the next generation a healthy start.

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