C-Sections and Future Obesity Risk

A new study published last week found some interesting results – children born via c-section are 26% more likely to be overweight and 22% more likely to be obese.  Numerous media outlets reported on the story (here, here, and here). This is not a cause and effect relationship, so if you had a c-section PLEASE don’t worry that you have doomed your child to be overweight or obese. There are many factors that may be the cause of this and the authors even admit the link could be due to confounding variables.

While the rate of elective c-sections is up to almost 33% of all births, only 2.5% of these are because the mom requested a c-section. The others are due to medical factors or inpatient providers. One medical reason that jumps to mind immediately is a large baby. Many of the c-sections I assisted with on my rotation were because the baby wouldn’t fit. Big babies have been shown to have an increased risk of childhood overweight and obesity. For some reason the researchers did not control for birth weight.

I don’t plan to start scaring my patients by telling them that if they have a c-section their child will be overweight or obese. I honestly think that the findings we are seeing are more closely linked to other variables. The birthing process provides many benefits to mom and baby and it is difficult to know what role is plays in future obesity risk.


Exercise AND Obesity on the Rise

A new public health report  found that exercise rates in the US are up – yeah!!! They also found that obesity rates are continuing to rise. You can read about it all over popular media (here and here are good ones).  What does this mean?

  • The data are from 2001-2011, so this before the effectiveness of more recent efforts can really be measured
  • We need to move more AND eat better
  • People eat more when they move more
    • Their body’s naturally are hungrier to no fault of their own
    • They allow themselves to splurge more and eat more because they exercised (think of that runner who carbo-loads for a 5K or 10K….not necessary)
  • The people are healthier even if their weight doesn’t show

I am a big fan of the last point and am disappointed I haven’t heard that argument. Too often we think of someone’s weight or appearance as the #1 indicator for health, and that couldn’t be further from the truth. It is just an easier proxy that other indicators of health. I don’t want to get on a soapbox, so I’ll save my comments for another post. If this sparked your interest, you should watch this amazing TED talk by a surgeon who had a similar revelation early in his career.

Food Restriction is Not the Solution

A recent study showed that parents of overweight/obese kids were more likely to restrict food while parents of normal weight kids were more likely to be in the “clean plate club.” While I personally don’t agree with either, this is a very useful insight – while the parents of heavy children have good intentions, there is a chance that these actions are actually hurting their child more. As this summary article states, the best solution is to make healthy foods available and empower children to make good choices. Kids spend A LOT of time outside of the home. If food is outwardly restricted at home, they are more likely to eat whatever they want outside of the home.

Interested in learning more about good nutrition parenting skills? Read Ellyn Satter’s Child of Mine book; hands down one of the best child nutrition books around.

Clean House

Over the past 60 years men have begun working less labor-intensive jobs and women started working outside of the home. The result? Well, one is bigger waistlines. This study by the Arnold School of Public Health in South Carolina found that women are doing significantly less housework than in the past and argues this is one contributing factor to the obesity epidemic. How much housework? 13.3 hours – that is one clean house and a whole lot of physical activity! So next time you’re home (women AND men) think about picking up the a broom before you pick up the remote 😉

How many calories do you burn doing housework? Check it out here.