As the obesity epidemic continues to grow causing staggering health impacts, researchers continue to try to get to the bottom of what is causing the fat fad. While it may seem like an unusual link, new research suggests that babies born by Caesarean section may be at greater risk of becoming obese later in life.
In the study, researchers examined obesity rates in roughly 2,000 people aged 23 to 25. They discovered that 15 percent of those delivered by C-section were obese compared with 10 percent of those born vaginally. The study took into account a number of factors that might explain the connection, including heavier birth weight, income, education levels and general health. But even after accounting for these things, the study found people delivered by C-section had a 58 percent increased risk of being obese as adults.
Some medical experts believe that babies born by C-section are not exposed to beneficial bacteria in the birth canal, which may account for the lack of bifidobacteria (good bacteria) necessary to regulate metabolism. In general, overweight adults have fewer of these friendly bacteria in their digestive tracts than those who are a normal weight.
Of course, there are other reasons that could explain a link between Caesarean section and obesity: Babies born by C-sections are more likely to be formula fed than breastfed. Other research studies have concluded that breastfeeding helps prevent childhood obesity.
While further studies are needed, this study does present strong evidence linking C-section and adult obesity. C-section rates are at an all time high, with one-third of pregnant women now delivering by Caesarean. There’s increasing evidence that C-section is being over performed and ends up causing greater health risks to mothers and infants.
However, one key thing should be noted: children of heavier moms are also more likely to have weight problems, but the study did not take this factor into account. Obese women are more likely to need a C-section than women of normal weight. Additionally, heavier moms are more likely to have obese children. So while this connection between C-sections and obesity has been made, it’s possible we’re putting the cart before the horse. The high C-section rate may be due to the high obesity rate, but it’s not necessarily the C-section itself causing the later obesity.