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    Is paternal obesity a risk factor for autism?



    According to a recent study in Pediatrics, paternal obesity could be an even greater risk factor than maternal obesity for developmental disorders such as autism spectrum disorders (ASD).

    Researchers at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health looked at a sample of 92,909 who had been part of the prospective, population-based Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study.  The children were aged 4.0 to 13.1 years, with the average age being 7.4 years. Odds ratios (ORs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) from logistic regression models were used to estimate the relative risks of ASDs.

    When follow-up ended on December 31, 2012, 419 children in the sample had been diagnosed with an ASD: 162 with autistic disorder, 103 with Asperger disorder, and 154 with a pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified. Maternal obesity (body mass index [BMI] ≥30) was found to be only weakly tied to ASD risk, but paternal obesity was found to carry an increased risk of autistic and Asperger disorders. Autistic disorder risk was 0.27% (25 of 9267) in the children of obese fathers and 0.14% (59 of 41,603) in the children of normal-weight fathers (BMI <25), an adjusted OR of 1.73 (95% CI: 1.07-2.82). Analyses for Asperger disorder were limited to children aged ≥7 years (n = 50,116). In the children of normal-weight fathers, the risk was 0.18% (42 of 22,736), while the children of obese fathers had a risk of 0.38% (18 of 4761), an adjusted OR of 2.01 (95% CI 1.13 – 3.57). Pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified had no associations with either group.

    The investigators concluded that paternal obesity is an independent risk factor for ASDs in children. To further study the phenomenon, they said that the associations should be investigated in genetic and epigenetic tests.



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    Miranda Hester
    Ms. Hester is Content Specialist with Contemporary OB/GYN and Contemporary Pediatrics.


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