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Why C-section babies are more likely to grow up fat

Baby
Babies delivered by Caesarean section are more likely to be obese children than those born naturally, new research suggests.

Experts at Harvard School of Public Health, United States (U.S.) found children whose mothers underwent the procedure were 15 per cent more likely to be obese by the time they were in their teens.

And the increased risk may persist through adulthood, the researchers found.

The use of C-sections to deliver babies is growing in Britain, with 26 per cent of births now involving the procedure.

Although in many cases the operation is necessary to avoid complications, doctors are increasingly aware it may have a knock-on impact on the child later in life.

Experts think this is mainly because babies removed directly from the womb are never exposed to the beneficial bacteria they would get through a natural birth.

Passing through the birth canal primes their immune system and helps prepare their metabolism for the rigours of life, scientists think.

The new study, published in the journal JAMA Paediatrics, tracked more than 22,000 people from birth.

The researchers examined the participants when they were aged between nine and 14, and found that those who had been born via C-section were 15 per cent more likely to be obese than those who underwent a natural birth.

They re-examined the participants again when they were aged between 20 and 28, and found that the impact persisted – although it had dropped to a 10 per cent difference.

The effect of C-section and natural births was even starker within families, the researchers found.

Youngsters born via Caesarean delivery were 64 per cent more likely to be obese than their siblings born by vaginal birth.

Senior author Jorge Chavarro, associate professor of nutrition and epidemiology, said: “Caesarean deliveries are without a doubt a necessary and lifesaving procedure in many cases.

“But Caesareans also have some known risks to the mother and the newborn. Our findings show that risk of obesity in the offspring could be another factor to consider…”

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