Children born by Cesarean section may have a greater risk of obesity

American Heart Association Meeting Report – Presentation 152 – Session: LF.AOS.475.N

November 13, 2016 Categories: Heart News, Scientific Conferences & Meetings

Study Highlights:

  • Compared with vaginally-delivered children, those born by Cesarean section had a 1.4 times greater odds of becoming overweight or obese in childhood.
  • Beneficial microbes in the birth canal may offer some protection from obesity.

Embargoed until 3 p.m. CT/4 p.m. ET, Sunday, Nov. 13, 2016

NEW ORLEANS, Nov. 13, 2016—Children delivered by Cesarean section may have an increased risk for obesity compared to children born vaginally, according to research presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2016.

Compared to vaginally-delivered children, Cesarean-delivered children had 40 percent greater odds of becoming overweight or obese in childhood. This association was even greater if their mother was overweight or obese, suggesting that among obese mothers vaginal delivery may help reduce the intergenerational association of obesity.

This finding held even after accounting for the mother’s age at the time of delivery, race, education, pre-pregnancy body mass index, pregnancy weight gain, air pollution exposure, and the child’s birth weight.

The researchers noted that having an overweight mother is often associated with overweight or obese children, regardless of how the child is born, but the effect was stronger among women who delivered via Cesarean section. 

“We think that the reason for the difference may be due to the beneficial microbes found in the birth canal that newborns are exposed to during a vaginal birth,” said lead study author Noel Mueller, Ph.D., M.PH., an assistant professor of epidemiology at Johns Hopkins University. “We suspect that these microbes may benefit a child’s health, including enhancing metabolism and training the immune system.”

“We need more studies to determine whether exposing Cesarean-delivered newborns to vaginal microbes at birth can reduce their future risk of metabolic disorders such as obesity.”

Researchers analyzed data on 1,441 full-term deliveries from the Boston Birth Cohort. Among the study group, 57 percent of the women who gave birth by Cesarean were obese, and 53 percent of those who delivered vaginally were obese. Children ranged from ages two to eight at the time of outcome measurement.

Co-authors: Guangyun Mao, M.D.; Wendy Bennet, M.D., M.P.H.;  Suchitra Hourigan, M.D.;  Maria Gloria Dominguez-Bello, Ph.D;  Lawrence J Appel, M.D., M.P.H.; and Xiaobin Wang, M.D., M.P.H., ScD.  Author disclosures are on the abstract.

This study is funded in part by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant R01HD086013 and R01HD041702.

Note: Scientific presentation is at 4:30 p.m. CT / 5:30 p.m. ET Sunday, Nov. 13, in Room 354-355. 

Additional Resources:

###

Statements and conclusions of study authors that are presented at American Heart Association scientific meetings are solely those of the study authors and do not necessarily reflect association policy or position. The association makes no representation or warranty as to their accuracy or reliability. The association receives funding primarily from individuals; foundations and corporations (including pharmaceutical, device manufacturers and other companies) also make donations and fund specific association programs and events. The association has strict policies to prevent these relationships from influencing the science content. Revenues from pharmaceutical and device corporations are available at www.heart.org/corporatefunding.

For Media Inquiries and AHA Spokesperson Perspective:

AHA News Media in Dallas: (214) 706-1173

AHA News Media Office, Nov. 12-16, 2016

at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center: (504) 670-5106   

For Public Inquiries: (800) AHA-USA1 (242-8721)

heart.org and strokeassociation.org

Life is why, science is how . . . we help people live longer, healthier lives.