A new study finds evidence proving that autism spectrum disorder or ASD is largely due to genetics and rather than the environment is not environmental or vaccine related as is held by some sections of the public.
The largest study of its kind involving more than 2 million people from five countries showed that ASD risk is 80 % reliant on genes. The research also discounted fears that autism can be attributed to maternal factors.
The current study published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry indicates that all other factors unrelated to genetics make up 20 % of a person’s risk of ASD.
The researchers said that maternal factors like maternity weight and diet, including birth delivery method, had “nonexistent to minimal” impact.
The team followed the medical records of people born in Australia, Denmark, Finland, Israel, and Sweden between 1998 and 2012 until they were 16 years old. More than 22,000 of them developed some form of ASD.
To prove their hypothesis, they examined their family histories, looking at shared health outcomes affected by genetics and environmental factors.
Dr. Amandeep Jutla, Dr. Hannah Reed and Dr. Jeremy Veenstra-Vander Weele said, “The contribution of the environment to autism spectrum disorder risk appears to be much smaller than the contribution of genetics.”
Dr. Andrew Adesman, director of the developmental and behavioral pediatrics at Cohen Children’s Medical Center in New Hyde Park, New York, reminded that families should not completely disregard environmental risks.
He said, “Even with the new data, experts are yet unable to pinpoint the gene that is causing autism in children. Future studies can focus more on identifying specific genetic differences or abnormalities that led to autism in an individual or family.”