- April 7, 2014
Science Daily/Norwegian Institute of Public Health
Several studies have looked at possible links between maternal obesity during pregnancy and the risk of developmental disorders in the child. However, paternal obesity could be a greater risk factor than maternal obesity, according to a new study.
In the sample, 22 per cent of the mothers and 43 per cent of the fathers were overweight, with a body mass index (BMI) of between 25 and 30. Approximately 10 per cent of mothers and fathers were obese, with a BMI of 30 or more.
The researchers found that maternal obesity had little association with the development of autism in the child. However, they found a doubled risk for development of autism and Asperger's syndrome in the child if the father was obese, compared with a normal weight father.
"We were very surprised by these findings because we expected that maternal obesity would be the main risk factor for the development of ASD. It means that we have had too much focus on the mother and too little on the father. This probably reflects the fact that we have given greater focus to conditions in pregnancy, such as the growth environment for the fetus in the womb than both environmental and genetic factors before conception," says Surén.
Surén believes that the finding about paternal obesity is sound. The researchers found that the risk remained unchanged when adjusted for sociodemographic and lifestyle factors.
"Our findings therefore suggest that there may be a genetic link between obesity in the father and the development of ASD in the child," says Surén.