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Paternal Obesity Linked to Elevated Autism Risk in Children

Weak association seen for autism spectrum disorder risk and maternal obesity

MONDAY, April 7, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Paternal obesity is associated with increased risk of autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) in children, according to a study published online April 7 in Pediatrics.

Pål Surén, M.D., from the Norwegian Institute of Public Health in Oslo, and colleagues examined the correlation between maternal prepregnancy body mass index (BMI), paternal BMI, and the risk of ASDs in 92,909 children (mean age, 7.4 years). The study sample were participants in the prospective Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study.

The researchers found that 419 children had been diagnosed with ASDs at the end of follow-up (Dec. 31, 2012), including 162 with autistic disorder, 103 with Asperger disorder, and 154 with pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified. There was a weak association between maternal obesity and ASD risk. However, the risk of autistic disorder was increased for children with obese fathers, compared to children of normal-weight fathers (0.27 versus 0.14 percent; adjusted odds ratio [OR], 1.73). The risk was also elevated for Asperger disorder, in which analyses were limited to children aged ≥7 years (0.38 versus 0.18 percent; adjusted OR, 2.01).

"The associations should be investigated further in genetic and epigenetic studies," the authors write.

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