RESEARCH explains why babies born by caesarean section are more likely to be obese as adults.
A recent study found birth by caesarean was linked to a 13 per cent higher risk of obesity in children compared with vaginal birth.
The scientists involved believe that babies born by caesarean miss out on exposure to bacteria in the birth canal that colonise the baby’s gut and may ultimately change the body’s metabolic rate – and even how hungry we feel.
Audrey Gaskins, an epidemiologist at Harvard University and co-author of the new study, said: “Children born via C-section harbour less diverse gut bacteria and these patterns of less diversity have been linked to increased capacity for energy harvest by the gut microbiota. You can think of it as a slower metabolism.”
Previous studies have found the same link, but were less able to rule out other factors, such as the mother’s weight or health.
The latest research, which included 22,068 children born to 15,271 women, suggests the link is not simply explained by overweight women or those with pregnancy complications such as high blood pressure being more likely to deliver by caesarean
The link remained after maternal weight was taken into account, and was more striking when siblings who had different types of births were compared.
Within families, children born by caesarean were 64 per cent more likely to be obese than their siblings born by vaginal delivery. “With siblings, they have the same mother and home environment so the genetics, the feeding environment, are all controlled for,” said Dr Gaskins.
There is growing evidence that the internal ecosystem of bacteria that colonises our gut can have profound implications for health , influencing our metabolism, diabetes risk and even our mental health.
The participants in the study, published on Tuesday in the journal JAMA Pediatrics, were followed up with questionnaires over 20 years. Those born via caesarean were on average 0.3 BMI points heavier.
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