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October 29, 2019

People on the Spectrum at a Greater Risk of Diabetes

The most recent research on the link between autism and diabetes shows that children whose mothers have Type 1 diabetes during pregnancy have a higher risk of having autism. Diabetes is just one of many factors that may affect autism development, but the findings prompt another question: does it work the other way around, and do children who are on the spectrum have a higher chance of developing diabetes? The answer lies in the affirmative and the reason is that autism and diabetes share many of the same risk factors.

A Significantly Higher Likelihood of Developing Type 2 Diabetes

One of the largest studies to date on the subject has found that teens and young adults with autism have around three times the likelihood of developing Type 2 diabetes. The study, published in Diabetes Care, adds diabetes to a list of specific health problems that people with autism may face. These include immune conditions such as allergies or asthma, motor disorders such as cerebral palsy, and heart disease. The good news for those with high glucose levels or those who have been recently diagnosed with  Type 2 diabetes, is that lifestyle changes can make a big difference to their long-term health.

Type 2 Diabetes can Be Reversed

Teens and youths with autism should be vigilant when it comes to controlling glucose levels, and they should be encouraged to adopt a healthy diet, shunning excess sugar and refined carbohydrates. Those who have already been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes should know that the condition can be reversed – provided they are willing to shed excess weight within 10 years of the onset of diabetes. Women on the spectrum who have high blood glucose levels during pregnancy should be particularly careful since gestational diabetes (GDM) can harm mothers and their babies in the long-term. Just a few consequences of GDM include preterm birth and a higher likelihood of developing Type 2 diabetes later in life – for both baby and mother. Doctors should take autism into account when recommending a specific diet to keep a mother’s weight gain during pregnancy within healthy ranges.

Exercise is also Important

Regular exercise can help children and adults keep their weight down as part of a preventive strategy against diabetes. If children are reticent or get stressed out by the thought of starting a new activity, there are many strategies that parents can employ, including storybooks depicting children engaged in physical activity and the use of EMDR tappers as a way to reduce stress. Regular use of tapper tools can be scheduled prior to exercise routines as a way to keep stress down. EMDR equipment can be a vital tool to help reduce the fear of the unknown and to turn a difficult moment into a more peaceful one.

What Percentage of Children with Autism are Overweight?

A large clinical sample of children with autism (S Broder-Fingert et al) has found that compared to a control group, children with autism and Asperger syndrome are almost five times more likely to be overweight or obese. Factors that increase the likelihood of this disease include older age, having public insurance, and having concurrent sleeping disorders. The findings are an indicator of the importance of prioritizing good sleep in those on the spectrum.

People with Asperger’s or autism have a greater likelihood of developing Type 2 diabetes, and they have a higher chance of being overweight. This increased risk calls for active prevention of these conditions, through the adoption of a healthy diet. Physical activity and good sleep can also help prevent obesity, which itself is considered a risk factor for the development of Type 2 diabetes. For those struggling to adapt to new activities, EMDR tappers can be used to lower anxiety and to break the tension at a given moment.

*This blog post was written by Lucy Wyndam. 


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