Nav: Home

Indigenous group add to evidence tying cesarean birth to obesity

October 12, 2016

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - A Purdue University study of an indigenous group of Maya people reinforces the link between Cesarean births and obesity.

Amanda Veile, an assistant professor of biological anthropology, found that the size of the mother and the method of delivery predict child growth patterns through age 5 in the Yucatec Maya. Her findings, with co-author Karen Kramer of the University of Utah, were published in the American Journal of Human Biology.

"Mothers who have high BMI and had a cesarean are going to have the fattest children in the village," Veile said.

Veile studied 57 Maya mothers and their 108 children born to them between 2007 and 2014, and tracked the children's growth monthly through age 5. About 20 percent of those births were via cesarean.

None of the children were considered obese by World Health Organization reference standards, and only 5 percent were overweight. But Veile said there were notable differences in the sizes of children that suggest that birth method could play a role in how children develop.

A 5-year-old child who had a high birthweight, and was born to a high-BMI mother, for example, would weigh on average 15.5 kg if delivered vaginally. If delivered by cesarean, the child would weigh 17 kg - nearly 10 percent more.

Veile and Kramer study Yucatec Maya farmers in Mexico because the village children are not impacted by many other factors that are linked to obesity such as high-sugar, high-fat diets or more sedentary lifestyles. Maya children have physically active childhoods and their diet mostly consists of maize, fruits, vegetables and beans. Children are breast fed until weaning at around 2.5 years of age, eliminating bottle feeding as a source of possible weight gain.

Many populations fit those criteria, but the Maya villagers recently gained access to modern health care facilities and hospital births through a series of poverty-alleviation programs. This makes them stand out from other rural or indigenous groups.

"The comparative lack of pre-existing obesity-related confounders allows us to directly observe the impact that birth mode has on early childhood growth, particularly with respect to weight gain," the authors wrote. "However, this link is critical to resolve given the significant global increase in cesarean births and the growing concern of childhood obesity as a public health issue."

One theory about cesarean births and obesity involves the microbiome - the "good bacteria" of the gut. It's thought that children are exposed to immune-stimulating bacteria from mothers in a vaginal birth. They are not exposed to the "good bacteria" when born via cesarean. Those bacteria go on to colonize the infant gut, and play important roles in the development of immune function and metabolism. Improper colonization of the gut microbiome can lead to obesity and its related diseases.

Veile said the issue is especially pertinent as cesarean rates climb. More than 32 percent of births were via cesarean in the United States in 2014, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Many of those cesareans could be unnecessary as the World Health Organization recommends a maximum cesarean rate of 15 percent.

"The cost of unnecessary cesareans are very high in terms of the future public health burden," Veile said.

That's especially true in very rural areas like Yucatan Mexico, where cesareans are on the rise, but health care options for obesity-related diseases are limited.

"There are few health programs that treat obesity and diabetes in these remote settings," Veile said.

Scientists are also interested in whether children born via cesarean could be exposed throughout childhood to bacteria that would bring their microbiomes to more closely resemble those of children born vaginally. Veile plans to continue to work with the Yucatec Maya - who as subsistence farmers are greatly exposed to bacteria and disease in a tropical environment - in a comparative study to determine if there are differences in cesarean-linked obesity rates between Maya children and children from populations living in environments that are considered more sanitary.
-end-
The National Science Foundation and the Claire Garber Goodman Fund for the Anthropological Study of Human Culture at Dartmouth College funded this study.

Purdue University

Related Obesity Articles:

Should obesity be recognized as a disease?
With obesity now affecting almost a third (29%) of the population in England, and expected to rise to 35% by 2030, should we now recognize it as a disease?
Is obesity associated with risk of pediatric MS?
A single-center study of 453 children in Germany with multiple sclerosis (MS) investigated the association of obesity with pediatric MS risk and with the response of first-line therapy in children with MS.
Women with obesity prior to conception are more likely to have children with obesity
A systematic review and meta-analysis identified significantly increased odds of child obesity when mothers have obesity before conception, according to a study published June 11, 2019 in the open-access journal PLOS Medicine by Nicola Heslehurst of Newcastle University in the UK, and colleagues.
Obesity medicine association announces major updates to its adult obesity algorithm
The Obesity Medicine Association (OMA) announced the immediate availability of the 2019 OMA Adult Obesity Algorithm, with new information for clinicians including the relationship between Obesity and Cardiovascular Disease, Diabetes Mellitus, Dyslipidemia, and Cancer; information on investigational Anti-Obesity Pharmacotherapy; treatments for Lipodystrophy; and Pharmacokinetics and Obesity.
Systematic review shows risk of a child developing overweight or obesity is more than trebled by maternal obesity prior to pregnancy
New research presented at this year's European Congress on Obesity (ECO) in Glasgow, Scotland (April 28- May 1) reveals that the risk of a child becoming overweight or obese is more than trebled by maternal obesity prior to getting pregnant.
Eating later in the day may be associated with obesity
Eating later in the day may contribute to weight gain, according to a new study to be presented Saturday at ENDO 2019, the Endocrine Society's annual meeting in New Orleans, La.
How obesity affects vitamin D metabolism
A new Journal of Bone and Mineral Research study confirms that vitamin D supplementation is less effective in the presence of obesity, and it uncovers a biological mechanism to explain this observation.
Wired for obesity
In a multi-center collaboration, scientists at Children's Hospital Los Angeles and University of Cambridge discover a set of genes that help to establish brain connections governing body weight.
Sarcopenic obesity: The ignored phenotype
A new condition, that occurs in the presence of both sarcopenia and obesity and termed as ''sarcopenic obesity'', and that describes under the same phenotype the increase in body fat mass deposition, and the reduction in lean mass and muscle strength.
Study finds people with type 2 diabetes at higher risk of death from both obesity-related and non-obesity related cancers
Being overweight or obese may put adults with diabetes at greater risk of dying from cancer than their diabetes-free counterparts, particularly for obesity-related cancers such as those arising from the bowel, kidney, and pancreas in men and women, and from the breast and endometrium (lining of the uterus) in women.
More Obesity News and Obesity Current Events

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Rethinking Anger
Anger is universal and complex: it can be quiet, festering, justified, vengeful, and destructive. This hour, TED speakers explore the many sides of anger, why we need it, and who's allowed to feel it. Guests include psychologists Ryan Martin and Russell Kolts, writer Soraya Chemaly, former talk radio host Lisa Fritsch, and business professor Dan Moshavi.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#538 Nobels and Astrophysics
This week we start with this year's physics Nobel Prize awarded to Jim Peebles, Michel Mayor, and Didier Queloz and finish with a discussion of the Nobel Prizes as a way to award and highlight important science. Are they still relevant? When science breakthroughs are built on the backs of hundreds -- and sometimes thousands -- of people's hard work, how do you pick just three to highlight? Join host Rachelle Saunders and astrophysicist, author, and science communicator Ethan Siegel for their chat about astrophysics and Nobel Prizes.