Evidence mounts for possible link between autism and type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes

While the causes of autism remain unknown, new evidence suggests that a child may be more likely to develop the condition if their mother had type 2 diabetes, was obese or had high blood pressure.

Researchers from the University of California, Davis found a strong association between maternal diabetes and childhood autism, according to HealthDay News. They reported their findings at the International Society for Autism Research meeting, which was recently held in San Diego, California. 

Their findings came from analyzing data collected from 1,000 children who either had autism, suffered from another developmental disorder or were developing normally.

"For mothers with at least one of the three conditions, their children had a 60 percent increased risk of autism and for developmental delays, there was a 150 percent increased risk," said Irva Hertz-Picciotto, deputy director of the Medical Investigations of Neurodevelopmental Disorders at the University of California, Davis, according to the news source.

Additionally, regardless of an official autism diagnosis, children of women with type 2 diabetes tended to have poorer expressive language skills than individuals born to healthy parents.

The study is not the first to note a connection between autism and impaired metabolic function. A 2005 study published in the journal Diabetes Care found that young people with type 1 diabetes were significantly more likely to also be diagnosed with autism.

The researchers from the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto speculated that a common autoimmune disorder may be behind the association between the two conditions. They said that their findings underscore the importance of understanding the connection between impaired metabolic function and type 1 diabetes.

With a better understanding of this possible link, doctors may be able to make more effective recommendations to pregnant women and identify children who are at risk earlier, allowing them to avoid type 1 diabetes or other conditions.