According to a new study, the obesity epidemic may be contributing to the rising number of children diagnosed with autism.

In the study ,which was released on Monday, researchers said mothers who are obese are significantly more likely to have a child with autism or another developmental abnormality. The finding adds to the increasingly complex picture of possible factors that contribute to the disorders.

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About half the risk of autism, a condition characterized by poor social skills and repetitive behaviors, is genetic, researchers believe, while the rest stems from factors including older parental age, premature birth or failure to take prenatal vitamins.

The new findings come in the wake of the announcement last month by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that autism-spectrum disorders, as the range of abnormalities is now called, affect one in 88 US children, up from one in 110 in a 2009 report.

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The link between obesity and developmental disorders is particularly worrisome because obesity has become so prevalent. About a third of US women of reproductive age are considered obese, the authors said.

The new research, published in the journal Pediatrics, studied more than 1,000 children aged two to five years old with and without autism or other developmental problems, as well as their mother's health history.

It showed that compared to non-obese mothers, those who were obese before pregnancy had a 60 percent increase in the likelihood of having a child with autism and a doubling in risk of having a child with another type of cognitive or behavioral delay.

For more go to the Wall Street Journal.

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