Does C-section raise child obesity risk?

Given that childhood obesity and cesarean delivery rates have surged over the last few decades, an intriguing new research suggests the two might be related.

According to experts, babies born via C-section were two times likely to be overweight and obese as children and teens than those delivered vaginally.

Though surgical delivery has been linked to an increased risk for allergy and asthma in children the impact of C-section delivery on weight in childhood has been mixed.

“There may be long-term consequences [of caesareans] to children that we don’t know about,” said lead researcher Dr Jan Blustein, from the New York University School of Medicine

Data analysis of 10,219 British kids
In a bid to determine whether C-section raises child obesity risk, the researchers carried out a study.

They analyzed data on a total of 10,219 British kids who were part of the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children. The participants born between 1991 and 1992 were tracked from birth until age 15.

It was noted that a little over nine per cent of the study subjects were born by caesarean and were on average two ounces lighter than those delivered naturally.

The study found surgically delivered kids were 83 percent more inclined to be obese than their naturally born counterparts. The investigators observed that C-section babies at six weeks were consistently heavier than those delivered vaginally.

The children were monitored for weight at ages three, 11, and 15 years. The trend persisted throughout the study period. The rates of overweight and obesity ranged from 31 percent at age three to 17 percent at ages seven and 15.

The association held even after the researchers considered the impact of known risk factors for childhood obesity, including the mother’s weight, how long she breastfed, and the child’s birth weight.

The co-relation between C-section births and obesity was more pronounced in children born to overweight mothers.

As for how C-sections may be linked to obesity, the researchers are a little ambiguous. They theorize that unlike vaginally delivered babies, C-section babies are not exposed to important bacteria in the birth canal, hence their bodies take longer to accumulate good bugs that boost the body’s metabolism.

Blustein added, “The other possibilities are (that) these are children that would have been heavier anyway. Being heavy as a woman is a risk factor for C-section, so that’s the problem with trying to figure out whether this is real or if it’s simply a matter of selection.”

The study was published in the International Journal of Obesity.

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