THE RESULTS OF RESEARCH conducted by scientists at Johns Hopkins’ Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore MD and the Boston Medical Center were recently published in the medical journal Pediatrics ("The Association of maternal Obesity and Diabetes with Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities" by Li X, MD Fallin, et al) .
The study showed that the combination of both obesity and diabetes in women prior to pregnancy was associated with greater risk of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in the children born to these mothers “than either obesity or diabetes alone, in particular when ASD “ was accompanied by an additional diagnosis of Intellectual Disability (ID).
WHAT DOES THIS HAVE TO DO WITH RUNNING? Many of us have difficulty when it comes to losing weight. However, as discussed in an earlier post (RUNNING AND PREDIABETES; February 1, 2016), most can increase our activity level to a degree that we help our bodies to decrease insulin resistance, the physiological state that leads to pre-diabetes and potentially diabetes. Prior to pregnancy, steps can be taken to minimize the effect obesity has on our ability to process blood sugar. Moderate consistent levels of exercise, which can be achieved with a running or walking training program, may POSSIBLY give women the chance to decrease their odds of developing diabetes in pregnancy.
See the article in Science Explorer for more discussion.
More details on the study:
“Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neuro-developmental disorder characterized by severe deficits in socialization, communication, and repetitive or unusual behaviors, affecting 1 in 68 US children”, the study states. Over about the same time period in the United States, from the 1960’s onward, the authors say, the “prevalence of ASD has dramatically increased” and obesity and diabetes have risen to “epidemic levels”. Before this study, no attempt had been made to “disentagle” the effect of the two conditions present in pregnant women, which often occur together, on the development of ASD although each has been linked to ASD.
The enrolled mother and child pairs were selected mostly from a poor, urban population with other well-recognized risk factors for ASD. Although the researchers made adjustments to their analyses to minimize possible biasing effects of this selection, they cautioned that other remaining factors, which could not be adjusted for such as genetic and other unknown risks, might still exist. As a result, they said the findings could not be generalized to be true in populations with “different social, demographic, and clinical characteristics”. The scientists also said the findings can mean that the underlying causes of ASD with ID may be different from ASD without ID.
It is possible, the researchers say, that poorly controlled or unrecognized high blood sugar levels in pregnant women, as can occur with pre-pregnancy and gestational diabetes during a early critical period in brain development, contributed to the increased risk of ASD in their children.
According to the authors, growing evidence points to inflammation as a possible culprit underlying the development of ASD. Obesity and diabetes cause an increase in the amount of inflammation-promoting substances in the blood of pregnant women (shown in rat models to lead to fetal brain inflammation) and in intrauterine tissues, respectively, both of which are implicated in the development of ASD. In diabetes the mother’s elevated blood sugar also causes insulin levels to increase in the fetus, leading to a greater consumption of oxygen by fetal body tissues and a chronic state of low tissue oxygen (hypoxia). High maternal blood sugar is also associated with an increased production of tissue-damaging “stress” molecules called free radicals. Both hypoxia and tissue stress are implicated as risk factors for ASD. WHAT THIS BOILS DOWN TO IS THAT the developing fetal brain can suffer “multiple hits” in the presence of combined obesity and diabetes, “conferring an even higher risk of ASD in the offspring than a single condition”.
It's not uncommon for people to want to get in shape for future big events in their lives. Some events we cannot easily predict far in advance. Start getting ready for ANY big event NOW by finding and safely following a running training program so that you can check that huge "to-do" task off the list and begin any new life experience in a more fit body!
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EARNED RUNS is edited and authored by me, runner and founder. In 1978 I began participating in 10K road races before 5Ks were common. I've been a dietitian, practiced and taught clinical pathology, and been involved with research that utilized pathology. I am fascinated with understanding the origins of disease as well as health and longevity.
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