Food and Behaviour Research

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Maternal dietary fat intake in association with autism spectrum disorders

Lyall K, Munger KL, O'Reilly EJ, Santangelo SL, Ascherio A (2013) Am J Epidemiol. 2013 Jul 15;178(2):209-20. doi: 10.1093/aje/kws433. Epub 2013 Jun 27.   

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Abstract:

Our goal in this study was to determine whether maternal fat intake before or during pregnancy was associated with risk of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in the offspring. Our primary analysis included 317 mothers who reported a child with ASD and 17,728 comparison mothers from the Nurses' Health Study II (index births in 1991-2007).

Dietary information was collected prospectively through a validated food frequency questionnaire. Binomial regression was used to estimate crude and adjusted risk ratios. Maternal intake of linoleic acid was significantly inversely associated with ASD risk in offspring, corresponding to a 34% reduction in risk in the highest versus lowest quartiles of intake. Mothers in the lowest 5% of ω-3 fatty acid intake had a significant increase in offspring ASD risk as compared with the remaining distribution (risk ratio = 1.53, 95% confidence interval: 1.00, 2.32); this association was also seen in the subgroup of women (86 cases and 5,798 noncases) for whom dietary information during pregnancy was available (risk ratio = 2.42, 95% confidence interval: 1.19, 4.91).

Thus, variations in intake of polyunsaturated fats within the range commonly observed among US women could affect fetal brain development and ASD risk. Because the number of women with diet assessed during pregnancy was small, however, these results should be interpreted cautiously.

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