Tanja V.E. Kral
Children with autism spectrum disorder had the highest occurrence of rapid weight gain during the first 6 months of life, putting these children at greater risk for obesity, according to findings recently published in Autism.
“Prior research has identified risk factors during pregnancy and infancy, such as maternal pre-pregnancy BMI, excess gestational weight gain, and rapid weight gain during infancy in children with typical development, but similar data were missing in children with developmental disabilities, including children with autism spectrum disorder,” Tanja V.E. Kral, PhD, of the department of biobehavioral health sciences at the University of Pennsylvania told Healio Family Medicine.
Researchers looked at maternal prepregnancy and offspring BMI, gestational weight gain and rapid weight gain from birth to 6 months in 2,446 children (average age, 59 months). Of those, 914 had a developmental delay, 668 had autism spectrum disorder and 884 made up the control group.
Kral and colleagues found that children with autism spectrum disorder displayed the highest frequency of rapid weight gain (44%) and were 3.47 times (95% CI, 1.85-6.51) more likely to be overweight or obese than children with the disorder who did not quickly gain weight.
In addition, mothers who were overweight or obese before their pregnancy were 2.38 times (95% CI, 1.96-2.9) more likely — and those mothers who surpassed gestational weight gain recommendations were 1.48 times (95% CI, 1.17-1.87) more likely — to have children who were overweight or obese.
“We were surprised to see that out of all three groups of children, only children with autism spectrum disorder showed the highest frequency of rapid weight gain during infancy. We predicted that the frequency of rapid weight gain would be similar across groups,” Kral said in the interview.
She added the findings may provide an incentive for women to think about their own weight before and during pregnancy, as well as their child’s weight immediately after birth.
“Prevention of childhood obesity needs to start early even before a child is born. Helping mothers achieve a healthy prepregnancy weight and adequate gestational weight gain and fostering healthy growth during infancy are important targets,” Kral said. – by Janel Miller
The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.