According to a new study, cesarean section-born babies could be more likely to obese adults than those born naturally.
Scientists found that there was a 15% increase in the risk of being obese in those born surgically, suggesting that the way we are born can have a lasting impact on overall health.
Scientists believe that the lack of exposure to the good bacteria in the vaginal canal could impact the health of all of those who are born surgically. These bacteria are meant to colonize a baby’s gut, which would then help to regulate appetite and the body’s metabolic rate.
“Children born via C-section harbor 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”, says Audrey Gaskins, a Harvard University epidemiologist who co-authored the study.
Babies born by cesarean section are also less likely to be breastfed, which also usually offers good gut bacteria that can reduce the risk of obesity.
There is increasing evidence that the balance of gut bacteria can have a significant impact on our health, which includes a properly functioning metabolism, a reduction in the risk of developing diabetes, and even having excellent mental health.
Does the mother’s health have an impact?
Previous studies uncovered the same link but were unable to eliminate factors like the mother’s physical health.
The latest study, however, found that the link remained even after maternal weight and health were taken into account, which proves that unnaturally born babies suffer the consequences either way.
22068 children born to 15271 women were studied, and it was found that children born by naturally were 36% less likely to be obese than their cesarean-born siblings.
The study, published in the JAMA Pediatrics journal, interviewed participants with follow-up questionnaires over 20 years. The difference in body mass index (BMI) was compared in adulthood, reflecting a 0.3 higher result in those born by cesarean section.
Dr. Gaskins confirmed: “With siblings, they have the same mother and home environment, so the genetics and feeding environment are all controlled for.”
What’s the best way forward?
The most recent study did not test the gut bacteria of the participants, which means that the difference between the gut bacteria of those born naturally and those born surgically cannot yet be confirmed. There are still many factors to be considered in the ongoing research.
“Most often caesarian births are as a result of medical necessity, rather than elective, and as such, this risk would outweigh any concerns mothers should have regarding the possibility of future weight issues”, said Simon Cork, a biomedical scientist at London’s Imperial College.
The spokeswoman for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Dr. Daghni Rajasingham, said: “Currently in England, the rate of cesarean section is 26.2%; this figure has been rising slowly over the last decade and could be explained by various factors which make childbirth more difficult, including a rise in older mothers and more obese mothers. We must remember that in some cases an emergency cesarean section is carried out to save the life of the mother or baby.”