Big Babies At Higher Risk For Autism

While one recent study recently concluded that the size of a baby’s head is not a predictor of autism, research out of Denmark draws a clear correlation between the size of a baby and his risk for developing autism. 

Danish researchers analyzed more than 1.7million birth records, and were startled by just how clear a correlation they found between high birth weight and length and the development of autism. Conversely, the study found that big babies had a lower risk of schizophrenia than small or average sized infants. 

This does not mean that all large babies will develop autism spectrum disorders (ASD), but does indicate a possible link in the genetic factors that influence birth size and those that influence mental development. It may also indicate a relationship between genetic factors of both autism and schizophrenia. 

While this study found that babies just 2cm longer than the Danish average had a 20% higher risk of developing autism, it reinforced findings of a similar study of Swedish births that suggested very large newborns with a birth weight over 9lb14oz had 60% higher risk of developing autism than their average sized peers. 

Premature babies were found to have a higher risk for both autism and schizophrenia, despite their tiny size. 

The Danish researchers theorize that genomic imprinting may influence all variations in birth size and risk of autism or schizophrenia, meaning that the genes inherited from the mother and expressed differently than those inherited by the father during development in the womb. 

“It’s quite likely that these imprints that cause either heavier babies or lighter babies are doing parallel things to the infant brain as it grows up,” said Professor Jacobus Boomsma, of the University of Copenhagen’s department of biology. “Exactly how that works mechanically on a genomic level we have no idea, but that is what the theory predicted and what the evidence here supports

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