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Cesarean Birth Linked to Childhood Obesity

May 25, 2013 02:37 AM EDT

Being born via a C-section is associated with developing obesity later in life, a new study has found.

In the U.S., about one in four women have their babies via C-section. Previous research has shown that birth through C-section can be a factor for children developing allergic reactions.

 Children being born via C-section might be at risk of many other health complications, Dr. Jan Blustein from the New York University School of Medicine, lead author of the study, told Reuters Health.

The present study was based on data collected from more than 10,200 children born between 1991 and 1992 in Avon, U.K. The children and their parents were part of the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children.

Researchers found that by age 11, children born via cesarean were 1.83 times more likely to be obese or overweight than children born via a normal delivery.

The researchers haven't found why the babies born via C-section have higher odds of developing obesity. One theory suggests that these babies aren't exposed to the good bacteria while on their way out of the birth canal, which may protect them from weight gain.

"Generally, the early colonization and establishment of the intestine with bacteria seems very important. Yet, much more work is needed before we can explain the mechanisms of the early bacterial colonization," Teresa Ajslev from the Institute of Preventive Medicine in Frederiksberg, Denmark, told Reuters Health via an e-mail.

Another theory that doesn't involve gut bugs is that the babies born via cesarean are heavy anyway. Maternal obesity is one of the reasons for opting for cesarean delivery and babies born to obese mothers are more likely to gain weight later in life.

"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," Blustein told Reuters Health.

Recent media reports too support the theory that C -sections can raise a baby's risk of developing obesity later in life.

The study is published in the journal International Journal of Obesity.      

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