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Study Finds Smoking Grandmothers May Cause Autism In Grandchildren; Here's Why

Update Date: Apr 28, 2017 08:22 PM EDT

The incidences of autism have been recorded to be on the uptrend, partly because of improved diagnosis of the disorder. A study on the disease showed that the grandmothers who were prone to smoking during their pregnancy were likely to have granddaughters who have autistic traits.

Connection Between Autism And Smoking

The study from the University of Bristol showed that girls whose maternal grandmothers gravitated towards smoking during pregnancy were more likely to show behavior akin to Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) like repetitive behaviors and poor social communication skills. The study included 14,500 children 0 almost half of which had autistic traits and ASD, the The Independent reported.

Scientists believe that smoking causes damage and mutation in the mitochondria. While the grandmother does not affect her own offspring with the mutated mitochondria, the impact is seen to double when the mitochondria is passed on to the grandchildren, The Telegraph reported. 

The scientists also noted that the effect of smoking grandmothers were more pronounced in the granddaughters because of mitochondrial DNA is only passed down through the female line. The researchers hypothesize that if a female baby in the womb is exposed to cigarette smoke, some of the 4,000 chemicals found in cigarettes would cause changes in her own egg cells. which could in turn cause developmental disabilities like autism in her own children.

Effects On The Unborn Child

Studies have already been published on the effects of smoking on the unborn child. Tobacco is known to have cancer-causing elements but nicotine and carbon monoxide are the culprits in most cases of complications during pregnancy. Although, this study is the first that links grandmothers' smoking to the health of the baby.

Autism is now one of the fastest-growing developmental disorders in the US, with one in every 68 children having the condition. The researchers are also cautioning that more data and large scale studies are needed to rule out this study as a chance finding because this study focused on children having behavioral traits related to autism, but no data was gathered on those who were actually diagnosed with having autism.

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