Children born through cesarean section are at a potentially higher risk of becoming obese later in life compared to those delivered vaginally. A study conducted on children in the UK set out to determine this relationship between cesarean delivery and childhood obesity.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cesarean births account for 32.8 percent of all deliveries in the United States. C-sections accounted for one in three births as of 2010 compared to one in five back in 1996.

A research team led by Dr. Jan Blustein, Ph.D., M.D., from the New York University of Medicine analyzed data from 10,219 children in the UK born between 1991 and 1992. Researchers noted that nine percent of children delivered via C-section were on average 2 oz. lighter than their counterparts.

Participants were retested at various points in their life including the final analysis when they turned 15. Blustein observed that, at six weeks old, children born out of C-section started to surpass vaginally delivered children in weight, Reuters reported.

Children born from C-section consistently weighed more than children delivered vaginally when brought in for follow up weigh-ins at age three, 11, and 15.

Blustein and her colleagues could only speculate as to what causes increased body mass in children delivered by cesarean section. However, signs did point to healthy bacteria in the birth canal that a cesarean section eliminates.

While the fetus is still in the womb, attached to the mother by umbilical cord, the child is still dependent on the mother for essential nutrients. Bacteria from the mother's gastrointestinal tract are one of these beneficial nutrients and have been proven to promote digestive health, increase hormone production, and provide vitamins.

The results of this study were published in the May 14 online edition of the International Journal of Obesity.

Source: Blustein J, Attina T, Liu M, et al. Association of caesarean delivery with child adiposity from age 6 weeks to 15 years. International Journal of Obesity. 2013