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Study: Birth weight dictates future health

Parents often say life changed when their children were born. The responsibilities begin instantly and a whole host of decisions will need to take place over the course of the child’s life. Now, a new study shows parents need to make the right decisions long before giving birth.

According to a study conducted by The Endocrine Society, a baby’s birth weight may be an indicator of future health problems.

The link between birth weight and other medical issues

Heavier babies are more likely to develop diabetes and other metabolic risks as they grow, according to the study.  However, this is only true in baby girls.

“What happens to a baby in the womb affects future heart disease and diabetes risk when the child grows up,” said Rae-Chi Huang, MD, PhD, of The University of Western Australia in Perth and the study’s lead author.

“We found that female babies are particularly prone to this increased risk and females who are at high risk of obesity and diabetes-related conditions at age 17 are showing increased obesity as early as 12 months of age.”

Details of the study

According to a press release, researchers examined 1,053 17-year-olds from an Australian birth cohort. Follow-up of study participants took place at eight intervals between one and 17 years of age. The 17-year-old girls with the greater waist circumference, triglycerides, insulin, and lower HDL-cholesterol (good cholesterol) were also heavier from birth with consistently higher BMI thereafter. In contrast, birth weight had no statistical impact on metabolic risk factors in males.

The importance of a healthy pregnancy

“These findings are significant because in our modern western society, we are seeing increased maternal obesity and gestational diabetes, which means there will also be a rise in female newborns that are born large for their age,” said Huang.

“Our results can be applied to public health messages targeting both maternal health and measures in early infancy regarding the prevention of childhood obesity and its consequences.”