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.

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What NOT to say

A new study has found that talking to overweight kids about dieting and their weight made matters worse. That’s right – WORSE. These kids were more likely to binge eat and use unhealthy dietary practices to try to lose weight. Time and time again we have found that kids who use unhealthy dietary practices not only have a messed up relationship with food for their entire life, but are also more likely to be overweight in the future.

The study did find some positives for parents –  kids with parents who were good role models (when it came to a healthy lifestyle) were less likely to engage in these unhealthy dietary habits.

Take home point – put your money where your mouth is and keep your mouth shut 🙂

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.