High Fructose Corn Syrup and Maternal Obesity: Autism Causes?

With nearly one-third of U.S. adults obese — including over 60 percent of women of childbearing age — and with many aspects of our contemporary diet including high fructose corn syrup pointed to as culprits, it is not surprising to see these under study as the the latest possible causes of autism. Researchers have previously considered how drinking alcohol, watching TV, having the flu and being stressed during pregnancy may make a child more likely to be at risk to be diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

High Fructose Corn Syrup, Autism, ADHD

A study published in a journal called Clinical Epigenetics links the increase in the number of children ages 6 to 21 in the U.S. receiving special education services under the autism disability category with consumption of high fructose corn syrup. The authors  connect high fructose corn syrup with a lessening of the body’s capacity to uptake zinc and other minerals. According to the study, high fructose corn syrup affects the absorption of zinc, which lessens the protein’s effectivity, which lowers the amount of protein in a body, which leads to an ”increased heavy metal load in the body” that is said to  ”start a chain of genetic disturbances that affect development.” Along with an inadequate intake of calcium and magneiusm, ”a HFCS zinc-depleting diet” may increase “the risk of developing autism and ADHD,” says the study.

Since my son was diagnosed with autism in July of 1999, I have read study upon study about possible causes (so that one of this study‘s authors, neuropharmacologist Richard Deth, was familiar as he has been a proponent of the discredited claim that vaccines contribute to autism; has published a paper funded by the anti-vaccine organization Safe Minds; and was a paid expert witness in the vaccine litigation omnibus proceedings of a few years ago). Any parent (and there are more of us, as more children are being diagnosed with ASDs now) who comes across a study mentioning a potential cause of autism, cannot but help read it and wonder, was this the reason, all while reviewing high fructose corn syrup consumption in her young, pre-ASD-diagnosed child.

I can’t vouch for Charlie’s exact consumption of such. Commercial baby food does contain high fructose corn syrup but the baby food I fed him was all made from fresh vegetables and fruits. Eager to give him a good start in life, we avoided processed and store-bought foods in general and certainly something like soda.

Maternal Obesity, Diabetes, Autism

The research about maternal obesity as a possible risk factor for autism was published in Pediatrics, the Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, and undertaken by scientists from the UC Davis MIND Institute. (Personally, maternal obesity was not a cause in my son being autistic.)

Scientists examined demographic and medical records for  1,004 mother/child pairs in the Childhood Autism Risks from Genetics and the Environment Study (CHARGE) study. More specifically, the researchers studied relationships between maternal metabolic conditions and the risk of neurodevelopmental disorders and found that

…mothers who were obese were 67 percent more likely to have a child with ASD than normal-weight mothers without diabetes or hypertension, and were more than twice as likely to have a child with another developmental disorder.

Mothers with diabetes were found to have nearly 67 percent more likely to have a child with developmental delays as healthy mothers. However, the proportion of mothers with diabetes who had a child with ASD was higher than in healthy moms but did not reach statistical significance.

The researchers also found  that  over 20 percent of the mothers of children with ASD or developmental delay were obese, versus 14 percent of the mothers of typically developing children.

Obesity itself increases the risk of diabetes and hypertension; the study suggests that the health issues in mothers can contribute to children being themselves at risk for neurodevelopmental disorders.

Or might it be possible that the study’s authors found that higher numbers of mothers of children with an ASD are obese because there are simply more people who are obese today?

My husband and I have been more inclined to consider our two families’ medical histories (which include ADHD, depression, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder) in light of Charlie being autistic; we see aspects of these, and of ourselves, in him. However Charlie came to be Charlie, we love and learn from him always for being the unique individuals — the very special boy — that he is.

Related Care2 Coverage

Bullying a Factor in Autistic Teen’s Suicide

How IQ Tests Underestimate Autistic Students’ Intelligence

Gene Mutations and Autism Risk: A Link?



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Nataliya Bardushko

.Ukraine does not use corn syrup, high fructose, but the number of children with autism is increasing. I think that the modern technological environment, urbanization of society is increasingly contributing to the spread of this diagnosis

Cherie LaPlace
Cherie LaPlace3 years ago

Petition to global corporate food manufacturer, Rich's Foods to remove HFCS/GMOs from their foods! http://www.thepetitionsite.com/667/776/825/please-stop-using-high-fructose-corn-syrup-corn-sugar-gmos-in-your-products/

Teresa Wlosowicz
Teresa W.3 years ago

Maybe Chinese medicine is right in claiming that pregnant women shouldn't eat fruit?

Agnes O.
Agnes O.3 years ago

Hahaha... almost as bad as the refrigerator moms. When will they stop with such silly ideas about causes...

Kari Knabe
Kari Knabe3 years ago

Thanks for the info!

Debbie L.
Debbie Lim3 years ago

Thanks for sharing.

Stephanie Hungerford

well written admitting that the relationship between more obese moms with ASD child may just be because more moms and people in general are obese today in the US

Charli S.
Charlotte S.3 years ago

I no longer put much stock in these studies. Every time they suck you in they'[re proven wrong later.

Reggie Thomas
Reggie Thomas3 years ago

THE STUFF IS SO BAD,High Fructose Corn Syrup is banned in Europe as part of a long list of genetically modified foods made in the U.S.

Earth Fare, the healthy supermarket, is one of the largest natural and organic food retailers in the country with 25 stores across the Southeastern and Midwestern United States. Headquartered in Fletcher, North Carolina, Earth Fare leads the natural and organic food industry as one of the only supermarket retailers in the country to ban high-fructose corn syrup, artificial fats and trans-fats, artificial colors, flavors and preservatives, as well as antibiotics and synthetic growth hormones in fresh meats and dairy. Earth Fare has differentiated itself with the strictest ingredient standards in the industry and its commitment to its mission: to feed and inspire the healthy person inside you!

If only http://www.earthfare.com/ was located in my State.

Reggie Thomas
Reggie Thomas3 years ago