C-sections may double kids' obesity risk, says study

May 24, 2012, 1:15 p.m.

The way a mother delivers her child may have a bearing on his or her obesity risk, says a new study. (Credit: Il-Young Ko/Flickr Creative Commons)

The way you were delivered as a baby could play a role in determining your risk of childhood obesity.

That's what a new study published in the Archives of Disease in Childhood is saying, citing findings that Caesarean section deliveries – C-sections – may double the risk of subsequent childhood obesity.

C-sections have been linked to increased risk of childhood asthma and allergic rhinitis, which is nothing short of significant considering that nearly one-third of babies are delivered this way in the United States.

Researchers looked at 1,255 mother-and-child pairs, who attended eight outpatient maternity services over four years. The babies were measured and weighed at birth, at six months and then at three years, where the kids' skinfold thickness – a measure of body fat – was evaluated. Nearly 23 percent of the births were delivered via C-section; the rest were vaginal.

By the time the kids turned three, about 16 percent of those delivered via C-section were obese, compared to 7.5 percent of the children delivered vaginally. After taking the mothers' weights and the babies' birth weights into account, in addition to breastfeeding practices and other influencing factors, researchers concluded that a C-section was associated with a doubling of the risk of obesity by the time the kids turned three.

That could potentially be due to the the different gut bacteria acquired in each birth delivery method. Certain gut bacteria may influence the development of obesity by increasing energy extracted from the diet, in addition to stimulating cells to boost insulin resistance, inflammation and fat deposits.

"An association between caesarean birth and increased risk of childhood obesity would provide an important rationale to avoid non-medically indicated caesarean section," wrote the authors per a press release.

The findings may represent just one more among many risk factors for obesity that are particularly pronounced in South Los Angeles, where prevalence rates are among the county's highest.

Photo by Il-Young Jo via Flickr Creative Commons.

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