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C- section delivery may double childhood obesity risk

May 24, 2012 - Washington

Babies, who are born by caesarean section, may be twice more likely to face the risk of obesity as compared to infants delivered vaginally, according to a new study.

caesarean section delivery has already been associated to an increased risk of subsequent childhood asthma and allergic rhinitis, and around one in three babies born in the US is delivered this way.

The authors base their results on 1255 mother and child pairs, who attended eight outpatient maternity services in eastern Massachusetts, USA between 1999 and 2002.

The mothers joined the study before 22 weeks of pregnancy, and their babies were measured and weighed at birth, at six months, and then at the age of three, when the child's skinfold thickness, a measure of body fat, was also assessed.

Out of the 1255 deliveries, around one in four (22.6 percent; 284) were by caesarean section, and the remainder (77.4 percent; 971) were vaginal or normal deliveries.

Mothers who delivered by c-section tended to weigh more than those delivering vaginally, and the birthweight for gestational age of their babies also tended to be higher. These mums also breastfed their babies for a shorter period.

But irrespective of birth weight, and after taking account of maternal weight (BMI) and several other influential factors, a caesarean section delivery was linked with a doubling in the odds of obesity by the time the child was 3 years old.

Just under 16percent of children delivered via c-section were obese by the age of 3 compared with 7.5percent of those born normally.

Children delivered by c-section also had higher BMI.

The researchers believe that one possible explanation for their findings is the difference in the composition of gut bacteria acquired at birth between the two delivery methods.

They quote previous research showing that children born by c-section have higher numbers of 'Firmicute's bacteria and lower numbers of 'Bacteroides' bacteria in their guts.

These two strains of bacteria make up the bulk of gut flora.

Another research has also suggested that obese people have higher levels of 'Firmicutes bacteria'.

The authors say that it may be possible that the gut bacteria influence the development of obesity by increasing energy extracted from the diet, and by 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," the authors write.

They say that the mums who choose this delivery option should be made aware of the potential health risks to her baby, including the possibility of obesity.

This study has been published online in the Archives of Disease in Childhood.


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