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MIAMI (CBSMiami) — Diabetes and obesity are at epidemic levels in women of child bearing age and now a new study is linking the two conditions to autism risk.

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“We found that mothers who were obese and diabetic during pregnancy had a risk four times greater than mothers who didn’t of the child developing autism,” said  Dr. Dani Fallin with Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

The study published in the journal Pediatrics also found a higher autism risk in mothers who developed gestational diabetes.

Researchers said obesity and diabetes are related to inflammation that put stress on the body.

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“There are many hypotheses about how a disrupted immune system during brain development can create developmental disabilities,” said Dr. Fallin.

Dr. Paul Wang from Autism Speaks said the study reinforces what  has become a leading research theory on autism risk.

“I think it’s very clear actually. That the processes that underlie autism in a large majority of cases start before birth. That is true for genetic factors, true for things like pollution exposure,” said Dr. Wang.

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That’s why experts said it’s important for moms to maintain a healthy weight before and during pregnancy. It’s estimated that 1 in 68 children have autism in the United States.