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C-sections tied to child obesity

May 29, 2013

This headline, “C-sections tied to child obesity,” caught my eye as I was reading the news on Yahoo! Saturday morning, and I just had to write about it.

More babies born via cesarean section grow up to be heavy kids and teens than those delivered vaginally, according to a new study of more than 10,000 UK infants.

Eleven-year-olds delivered by C-section, for example, were 83 percent more likely to be overweight or obese than their vaginally-born peers once other related factors — such as their mother’s weight and how long they were breastfed — were taken into account.

The findings are in line with a recent review of nine earlier studies that also found a link between C-sections and childhood obesity (see Reuters Health story of December 12, 2012 here:

Given that they have controlled for the mother’s weight, the correlation here seems confusing. Are C-sections causing fat kids or are fat kidsNewborn causing C-sections?

With C-sections, “there may be long-term consequences to children that we don’t know about,” said Dr. Jan Blustein, who led the new study at the New York University School of Medicine.

The rate of C-sections in the U.S. has been rising, leading to concerns about possible complications for mothers and babies. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, C-sections accounted for almost 1 in 3 births in 2010 — up from 1 in 5 in 1996.

Blustein said the size of the obesity risk for kids is “not great,” and shouldn’t come into play for women who need a C-section for medical reasons.

Wait, what? As a layman, “83 percent more likely to be overweight or obese than their vaginally-born peers” sounds like quite a bit of a difference to me. So, which is it? Something to be concerned about or should it not come into play?

The researchers analyzed data from babies born in Avon, UK in 1991 and 1992 who were followed through age 15. Just over 9 percent of the infants were delivered via C-section.

On average, kids delivered by C-section were born slightly smaller — by less than two ounces — than those who went through vaginal birth.

Starting at six weeks of age, however, C-section babies were consistently heavier than vaginally-born infants at almost all check-ins. That link was especially strong among children born to overweight mothers, Blustein and her colleagues report in the International Journal of Obesity.

Across the whole study group of children, rates of overweight and obesity ranged from 31 percent at age three to 17 percent at ages seven and 15.

Blustein said studies haven’t been able to prove whether C-section, itself, is a reason some babies tend to gain more weight.

So, according to this, 1 in 10 babies were delivered by C-section and across the whole study group, rates of being fat ranged from 17% to 31%, depending on age. And yet, they’re trying to say there’s an 83% risk of a baby becoming fat if that baby is born via C-section? Are there any statisticians out there who can explain how this math works? Also, I’d like to know what the risk for being fat is for a baby born vaginally.

Blustein said studies haven’t been able to prove whether C-section, itself, is a reason some babies tend to gain more weight.
If it is, she speculates, it might have something to do with C-section babies missing out on important exposures to friendly bacteria during the trip through the birth canal.

“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 in an email.

I’ve seen a couple of articles that speculate it’s the bacteria in our intestines that make the difference between between being fat and not being fat, but I haven’t seen anything that says where we get those bacteria that supposedly “protect” us from becoming fat.

But it’s also possible bacteria have nothing to do with the obesity link to C-section births.

“The other possibilities are (that) these are children that would have been heavier anyway,” Blustein said.

“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,” since overweight parents are more likely to have overweight children.

No shit, Sherlock. Did you even think to take genetics into account in this study? Were the mother’s parents fat? Were her grandparents fat? Were her great-grandparents fat? Ya think that might, possibly have something to do with whether her child is fat, no matter whether she gave birth vaginally or via C-section?

Her study was able to take a mother’s weight into account, and did find the link between C-section births and child obesity was “weak” among kids born to normal-weight mothers.

Aaanndd another “No shit, Sherlock” moment. Need I repeat my genetics theory?

But there could be other unmeasured factors that help explain the overall link between delivery method and a child’s weight.
“This certainly is not the last word,” Blustein said.

Of course this isn’t the last word, you need to have a reason to do more studies and get more grant money. I have a few last words for you, how about: People come in all sizes, and so do their babies. And babies usually take after their parents when it comes to size. Nothing to see here, move along.


11 Comments leave one →
  1. May 29, 2013 2:51 pm

    I agree with your duh moment on the C-section babies born to fat mothers may just be genetic. No clue why this is such a hard thing for people to understand. Also,we know that many fat women are singled out for C-sections, pressured into them, so havin their babies be bigger does not see surprising.

    I will say that I think there are many health issues that will plague children who are born via C-section directly related to the lack of good gut bacteria obtained during birth. Instead of having their guts colonized with helpful vaginal bacteria (which on a healthy mom is equal to gut bacteria), they have their guts either not colonized well at all or colonized with hospital bacteria. (Yikes!!)

    Without pointing to fat only, poorly colonized guts (this can include babies who are not breast fed) can lead to various GI issues over a lifetime and I think it may be fair to say that one of those issues may be to hold more weight than that person may naturally hold onto, though there is no way of knowing that for sure.

    Infant probiotics for susceptible individuals can go a long way toward increasing gut health for these children, which will, in turn, improve digestion and nutrient absorption. There will still be fat kids and thin kids, but they will be healthier kids.

    • May 29, 2013 3:17 pm

      Just a thought adding onto this: GI issues and a lack of good gut bacteria, so to speak, are also allegedly symptoms of autism. And there has been a brouhaha about the risk of autism in babies born to fat mothers. I would be quite curious about any study that investigates the prevalence of autism in C-section babies, because autistics allegedly don’t have that good gut bacteria for whatever reason, and it would close the proverbial loop.

      Of course, I’m a fat autistic and was delivered to a woman who’s normally a size 6, via non-C-section birth, so … *shrug*

  2. JeninCanada permalink
    May 29, 2013 4:06 pm

    Just another article trying to shame moms for messing up their kids. We can’t do anything right from the moment we’re born to the day we die it seems. Screw you, mainstream media.

  3. May 29, 2013 4:45 pm

    I was hoping someone would do something sciency (this is a word when referencing dreck such as this original article!) with this piece. I just didn’t have the energy after I read it…

  4. lifeonfats permalink
    May 29, 2013 5:17 pm

    I was a vaginal birth, weighed 7 lbs and a few ounces—AND was three weeks late. My brother was three weeks early, was supposed to be vaginal but ended up a C-section and was only 6 pounds.

    Both of us grew up to be fatty fat fatties. Of course, it might have something to do with the fact that the majority of people in our family are also fat. My mother at both births was about a 12/14, back when that was considered a standard large. Today, she would be considered obese and an inbetweenie. Yet she gave birth to smaller babies (small for 1976 and 1986 respectively).

    Trying to make this cut-and-dry is a waste of time and research. Every fat body is different. We’re not hive minds, hive stomachs or hive genes.

  5. May 29, 2013 10:48 pm

    Oh geeze, another one… You can tie almost ANYTHING to obesity these days, can’t you?

  6. Pyctsi permalink
    May 30, 2013 5:10 pm

    I’m sure I read somewhere they tried to push fat women into c-sections (sometimes a week early) so they could deliver at a scheduled time rather than having to wait for nature.

    If that is correct then maybe that has an effect, or it could just be that more fat women are being pushed into scheduled c-sections for convenience and that is why more babies born this way become fat – regular genetics.

    I think c-sections are great if needed but they should not be a go to procedure just so doctors don’t have to wait for nature.

    • violetyoshi permalink
      May 30, 2013 8:07 pm

      Or maybe they’re pushed into it, because doctors who now apparently are allowed to act like high school boys, get all upset over having to touch a fat woman down there.

      • Pyctsi permalink
        May 30, 2013 10:12 pm

        I believe the speculation was they were timing it so they didn’t have to reschedule their leisure activities…

  7. May 31, 2013 12:57 pm

    Reblogged this on The Cheese Whines and commented:
    My slim to average weight son was born via C-section. I had toxemia and horrific complications. If I hadn’t had a c-section, we both would have died. Whoever came up with this bullshit can bite me.

  8. Dizzyd permalink
    June 1, 2013 6:51 pm

    You said it! Yet another thing they try to lay at the feet of fatties = “See what you’re doing to all of us just by standing there doing nothing but just merely existing?” Like you said, Cie, Bite me! Where do they come up with this bs? They must be just making it up.

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