Given the ongoing rise in prevalence of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and the challenges in developing and administering interventions to significantly alleviate ASD symptoms, there is an urgent need to identify modifiable risk factors for ASD. The goal of this review is to systematically evaluate the current evidence for an association between conditions related to maternal metabolic syndrome and risk for ASD in offspring focusing on methodically rigorous studies.
In recent years, multiple studies explored the association between various conditions related to maternal metabolic syndrome (obesity, hypertension, or diabetes prior to, or with onset during pregnancy) and ASD risk in the offspring.
Examining large, sufficiently powered, population-based epidemiological studies that explored the association between maternal metabolic syndrome and ASD, we found consistent evidence for an association between maternal preeclampsia and risk for ASD. Other conditions that are part of maternal metabolic syndrome, including maternal obesity, gestational weight gain, diabetes and gestational diabetes, should be studied further with careful attention paid to potential synergistic effects between different metabolic conditions. These findings highlight the need for rigorous, large, population-based epidemiological studies of potentially modifiable ASD risk factors that could inform public health interventions.