Moms who give birth via C-section may be putting their children at risk for obesity later in life, especially when compared to children born naturally. In a study of over 2,000 young adults living in Brazil, researchers found that 15 percent of those delivered via C-section were obese compared to 10 percent of young adults whose mothers had delivered vaginally.
Could weight problems in adulthood really be traced back to the delivery room? To explain these statistics, researchers theorize that infants born via C-section are not exposed to the beneficial bacteria in the birth canal, and so take longer to accumulate Bifidobacteria, a microbe that influences metabolism. Other studies have shown that obese adults tend to have fewer of those "friendly bacteria" in their digestive tract than normal-weight people do.
It's true that C-section rates have dramatically risen over the past three decades, right at the same time the nation's obesity rates among children and adults have soared. But some doctors still aren't sure that how a mom gives birth really holds that much sway over how much her child will weigh as an adult.
According to Dr. Xavier Pi-Sunyer, director of the New York Obesity Research Center at St. Luke's Hospital, a major weakness of this latest study is that researchers failed to collect information on mothers' weight. As Pi-Sunyer points out, obese women are more likely than thinner women to need a C-section. Likewise, they are more likely to have overweight or obese children.
"This is an interesting finding," Pi-Sunyer says in an interview with Reuters Health. "But it raises more questions than it answers, and it requires a lot more research."