Study Finds Link Between Bacon And Autism

Oh man. Is everyone having a good Autism Awareness Month? I for one, am having a ball. (It’s a tactile sensory ball, thankyouverymuch.) Granted autism has had some stiff competition. April is also Jazz Appreciation Month, as well as Mathematics Awareness Month. But autism is winning, because I’ve seen no headlines for the latter two.

¿And am I hallucinating or does each day bring a new story or study on autism? While I’m all for awareness, some people are not helping matters. I’m thinking specifically of the reported link between autism and maternal obesity. Everyone from the Wall Street Journal to CBS and Fox to USA Today covered the April 9th publication of [deep breath] “Maternal Metabolic Conditions and Risk for Autism and Other Neurodevelopmental Disorders,” published in Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

(That was a long sentence, so you may want to read it again. Or if you’re pressed for time, maybe re-read it some night when you’re having trouble falling asleep.)

The study was widely reported but narrowly discussed. It asserts that maternal obesity is a major risk factor for autism in children. To which one might reasonably respond: Are you fucking kidding me?

Even more astounding, the study mentions that among children without autism, those exposed to any maternal metabolic condition scored lower on early learning (MSEL) and adaptive behavior scales (VABS). Translation: Neuro-developmental delays were found in all children born to mothers who had either type 2 diabetes, obesity or hypertension. Talk about burying the lead.

But don’t put down that pint of Ben & Jerry’s just yet.

There were some curious statistics underpinning the report. To name but a few:

1. 34% of women of childbearing age (U.S.) are obese. Fine.

2. Among the neurotypical kids in the study’s control group, only 14.3% of their mothers were clinically obese. How representative were these kids if their moms had a rate of obesity less than half the national average?

3. Of the kids with autism, 21.5% of them (111 out of 517) had mothers who were obese. This number is way below the national average (34%) and it’s even a few points below the state average (25%) in California, where the study was conducted. Assuming fat chicks procreate at the same rate as skinny bitches, why are their numbers underrepresented here?

4. The study found that obese women are 1.67 times more likely to have a child with autism. Clearly there are enough neurotypical kids born to chubsters – and sufficient autistic kids born to twigs – to render this 1.67 risk multiplier as irresponsibly alarmist.

Something doesn’t add up here, and I’m not referring to the calorie count on that Entenmann’s fat free coffee cake. I’m no statistician, so I invite more astute minds to correct my math and analysis.

In the meantime, would it kill our media to put this study in some perspective? Raising a child with autism comes with enough inherent challenges without the needless addition of self-recrimination.

I’m not interested in sparing people’s feelings at the expense of scientific progress and understanding. But everyone already knows that being overweight comes with negative health consequences. The outlets reporting this study needed fewer sensational headlines and more context.

Of course, the much more sensational statistic to hit Autism Awareness Month was the 1 in 88 figure. People pounced on that from all directions. Reactions ranged from It’s an epidemic! to diagnoses have risen because of awareness and It’s parents wanting to get subsidies!

The ratio misses the point. Whether it’s 1 in 88 or 1 in 110, autism was already a crisis. It doesn’t particularly matter whether it’s under your roof or across town. As a civilized society we are obligated to direct whichever resources are necessary to study, treat and mitigate autism. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a date with a pint of Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough.

You can read the full study in the AAP’s Pediatrics by clicking here.
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10 Responses to Study Finds Link Between Bacon And Autism

  1. Megan Alton April 27, 2012 at 9:58 am #

    Well put, and thanks for actually reading the study. Makes my life a lot easier.

  2. Christine@TheCupcakeBandits April 27, 2012 at 2:21 pm #

    If bacon’s the cause…we’ll never have a cure roflmao. All these studies don’t amount to jack shit as far as my children are concerned..and it’s very tedious but I took the time to read your article…it simplified it and put a REAL perspective on it. It’s also Child Abuse Awareness, Domestic Violence Awareness, and Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

    • Daddy Confidential April 27, 2012 at 9:08 pm #

      Child abuse? Domestic violence?? Sexual Assault?!? Those causes are failing. My awareness of those hasn’t been raised one iota this month. I’ve learned more about Tupac.

      • Christine@TheCupcakeBandits April 27, 2012 at 11:17 pm #

        I have many things I wrote on these topic…as I am a survivor. But you know what I find. No gives a shit. Not really. Only the people who gone through it. Oh gosh I’m sounding pessimistic lol. I don’t have a huge readership but maybe 1 person commented on these posts..but damn I post a recipe for homemade moonpies and people bust out of the woodwork. It feels defeating

  3. Amanda April 27, 2012 at 2:32 pm #

    You forgot that April is also Month of the Military Child ;)

    But you’re right, we need less studies that blame the parents and more that actually help the situation.

  4. Michele April 27, 2012 at 8:55 pm #

    April also houses National Infertility Awareness Week (because those of us who are infertile need yet another thing to deal with…) ;)

    And I agree with you. 100% (now where the hell is my chocolate bar???)

  5. Venus May 4, 2012 at 2:37 pm #

    I find media coverage of most scientific data (even studies which appear to make mathematical sense) to be seriously wanting. It’s partially why I avoid most of the media. Luckily there are people like you who bring the entertaining/enraging absurd to my attention when I miss it!

  6. Jim W. May 4, 2012 at 2:53 pm #

    Plus, everyone KNOWS it’s really caused by emotionally detached mothers.

  7. Caffeinated Autism Mom May 6, 2012 at 3:00 am #

    You had me at bacon. Maybe that’s why I have 2 (yes, count them…2!) boys with autism.

    And I quote: “The ratio misses the point. Whether it’s 1 in 88 or 1 in 110, autism was already a crisis. It doesn’t particularly matter whether it’s under your roof or across town. As a civilized society we are obligated to direct whichever resources are necessary to study, treat and mitigate autism.” Can I have an amen?!!!

    This is another one of those studies that can get piled on with the rest of them that don’t really bring us any closer to helping the families experiencing autism right now. There is no single smoking gun. We need to focus on early intervention, treatments, and the actual right to even access treatment via medical insurance (which is still not the case here in Washington).

    Thanks so much for your view on this topic.

    – Angela (aka Caffeinated Autism Mom)

  8. SuperGroverSuperTurtle January 29, 2013 at 1:51 pm #

    Obesity, autism and bacon; oh my! Funny, 15 years ago when I was a 20 something first time mom I was a little under weight for my height and frame and such. I found years later to be an overweight mom of a son with Asperger’s Syndrome. So either his autism developed as I, ah hem, “developed” or autism knew I’d bulk up so decided to settle in even without bacon (not a huge fan). AS impacts my son minimally but it does still cause everyday battles, misunderstandings on both our part and questions about independent living as he transitions into the “real world”. As my background has been in special education since before my son was born I’ve worked with students at the elementary and secondary levels. I’ve also met a many parents and foster parents raising children on the spectrum and have concluded something astounding. The causes of, diagnosis and world of autism, no matter who conducts what kind of research and studies, is like bacon. It’s crisp on peoples minds, floppy to scalding to understand, you see it everywhere even and some places you shouldn’t.

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