According to a new study, women who consume average amounts of healthy fats during pregnancy are more likely to give birth to a child without autism. A team of researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health led the study, which involved 317 women who gave birth to children with autism, compared to 17,000 women who had not.
The team concluded that increasing the intake of an omega-6 fatty acid called linoleic acid can reduce a woman’s risk of giving birth to an autistic child by up to 34%. Linoleic acid can be found in vegetable oils, such as canola oil, olive oil and soybean oil. Nutritionists note that nuts and seeds are also good sources of fatty acids.
"Our results provide preliminary evidence that increased maternal intake of omega-6 fatty acids could reduce risk of autism spectrum disorder, and that very low intakes of omega-3 fatty acids and linoleic acid could increase risk," reads a report from the research team.
While the study provides some valuable insight into the causes of autism, the researchers clarify that the study doesn’t determine a cause-and-effect relationship between the disorder and the intake of fatty acids. The test results only indicate a preliminary association, which will require further research to confirm a definitive cause-and-effect relationship.