Researchers have long believed that childhood obesity is linked to overweight or obese mothers. But a new study suggests that the method of delivery and gut bacteria may also play a role. The children of obese women who are delivered via c-section are nearly 5 times more likely to be as risk for childhood obesity. And a particular family of bacteria in the gut seems to raise the risk, as well.

In a study published in JAMA Pediatrics, researchers found a link between c-sections and a certain family of bacteria, and higher childhood obesity risk.

When overweight women deliver vaginally, the risk of childhood obesity in their children was three times higher than normal. But when a woman has a c-section, that risk jumps to up to five times higher than normal. Dr. Anita Kozyrskyj said that there seemed to be an association between c-sections, maternal obesity, and overweight children. Dr. Kozyrskyj is senior author of the study and one of the world’s leading researchers on the gut microbiome. In previous research, a connection has been made between an infant’s gut bacteria and delivery method. So researchers wanted to explore further.

The study of 930 mothers and their infants used DNA sequencing to identify the types and quantities of bacteria in the infants’ stool.

What they discovered is fascinating. Dr. Hein Min Tun,  the study’s first author says, “We found that an abundance of a family of bacteria called Lachnospiracae does in fact influence the relationship between maternal weight and child weight following vaginal and cesarean birth.” Infants who were born to obese mothers via c-section had more of this particular bacteria in their gut.

The implications of this study on addressing the childhood obesity public health issue and rising c-section rates is incredibly important. Additionally, it raises questions about just how important gut bacteria and health really is.

(Image: iStock / Taborsk)