December 6, 2021

I, Science

The science magazine of Imperial College

Data combined from 10 countries reveal link between C-section birth and obesity later in life ...

This news story was published in the Imperial News section of the Super Science issue (issue 28), as an important Imperial College story from the past few months.


Imperial Researchers determine link between babies born via C-section and obesity later in life.

The new analysis carried out by researchers at Imperial College shows that children born by caesarean section are more likely to be obese when they reach adulthood.

The finding was based on the combined data of 15 studies from across 10 countries, bringing together the history of 38,000 participants. The study found that for those born by caesarean section, there is a 26% increase in the chances that the child will be overweight or obese as an adult.

However, as is the issue with all combined data analyses, it cannot be certain whether the delivery method is, in fact, causal of the higher body weight, as it may also have been influenced by other factors that were not recorded.

Professor Neena Modi from the Department of Medicine at Imperial College London, an author of the paper, said of the uncertainty: “We now need to determine whether this is the result of the C-section, or if other reasons explain the association.” Despite this, previous research has associated C-sections with other adverse long-term health effects such as asthma and type 1 diabetes.

The benefits of a vaginal birth over a C-section are numerous, and some may lie in the exposure of the newborn to the healthy bacteria that reside inside the birth canal. Not only that, but there also may be influences on gene expression that stem from the physical compression of the baby as it is born.

With around one in four births now requiring a C-Section, a figure that is steadily on the rise, this research could highlight new, long-term effects of the growing trend. The researchers pointed out that although there are good reasons why many woman may have a C-section, this could be one more factor that needs to be considered.


IMAGE: Geo Swan