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Researchers say C-sections do not increase risk of childhood obesity

The finding opposes previous studies that have come to the opposite conclusion

Photo (c) Dmitriy Protsenko - Getty Images
Childhood obesity is an important issue for consumers, as researchers have found that there are several different health risks associated with the condition, many of which can last well into adulthood. 

Now, researchers from the Karolinska Institutet found that how women give birth, whether through natural delivery or a C-section, doesn’t affect whether a child will develop obesity, as many previous studies have reported. 

“We found no evidence to support a link between C-sections and the development of obesity,” said researcher Daniel Berglind. “This tells us that how women give birth may not be an important factor in the origins of the global obesity epidemic.” 

Understanding obesity risks

With more and more women delivering via C-section, the researchers set out to discover if one delivery method yielded better health outcomes in children over the other. The team had 100,000 18-year-old males participate in the study, dividing them into three groups depending on how their mothers delivered -- elective C-section, non-elective C-section, or natural delivery. 

From there, the researchers assessed their overall health, paying particular attention to their body mass index (BMI), in the hopes of understanding if delivery method played a role in obesity. The study revealed that regardless of delivery method, mother’s weight pre-pregnancy was the biggest determining factor of obesity for all of the participants involved in the study. 

Though those delivered via C-section, both elective and non-elective, were slightly more likely to be obese than those delivered naturally, the researchers explained that several other factors come into play that affect children’s weight as they develop, with their mother’s weight coming in at the top. 

These findings are consistent with several other studies, which have found that mothers’ lifestyles, and their ability to follow healthy habits, affect their children’s likelihood of developing obesity. 

The researchers hope these findings are illuminating, as women shouldn’t worry that their delivery method will affect their child’s health down the road. 

“Most of the association between C-section and obesity could be explained by maternal pre-pregnancy BMI,” said researcher Viktor H. Alhqvist. “This suggests that heritability and fetal exposure to obese-causing factors in the womb are more important when assessing the risk of obesity in the offspring than the mode of delivery.” 

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