Monday, 19 December 2011

C-sections and obesity

This is an extension post to a topic previously discussed on this blog and its sister blog in relation to your route of entry into the world potentially being correlated with later health and ill-health risk.

The header in the UK Sunday Times on 20 November 2011 was 'caesarean babies have greater risk of obesity'. We are told through this article that babies born through planned c-sections are more likely to become obese. The reason: higher levels of fats in the liver as a result of a malfunction of the metabolic processes which allows people to handle fats according to one of the authors, Prof. Neena Modi of Imperial College, London. It appears that the often traumatic journey from snug warm cocoon to big wide world via the birth canal, and all the hormones and chemicals involved in this process, might have lots of different lasting effects on baby. That's before you even reach the stage of cord clamping and when to do it.

I can't post a link to the study in question reporting these findings because I can't find it (yet). What we do know is that scanning livers of 62 babies and correlating with maternal body mass index (BMI) and birth route (vaginal, emergency c-section, planned c-section) revealed some interesting trends. So, mum's weight seemed to have an effect on liver fat content but only when birth was by planned c-section. This might have some interesting implications for the message being put out about larger mums predisposing to larger offspring.

The Imperial team (no, not that Imperial) are no strangers to this type of research as evidenced by a recent paper of theirs suggesting that fat in liver (intrahepatocellular lipid) of babies might be correlated with maternal body mass index (BMI). I assume that this latest research is an extension of their tried and tested investigative techniques.

Going back to my previous posts on c-sections, it is interesting that a few trends seem to be appearing. Labour and all the biochemical changes a woman's body makes when it is time to give birth seem to be important when it comes to a baby's subsequent risk of obesity (fatty liver anyway) and coeliac disease. Distinguishing emergency c-sections from planned c-sections, where one would assume that many of those biochemical changes are already starting to take place despite the fact that entry into the world is via a different port, also seems to be important.

I do also wonder about that favourite topic of mine 'bacteria' and whether babies who need to be delivered by emergency c-section might have already taken a few mouthfuls of the good stuff as a result of their partial journey down the birth canal? Does this mean that a good dose of mum's bacteria should accompany all planned c-sections? (Not that I'm offering any clinical advice!)