Caesarean sections cause obesity and microbiome changes in mice

Henrietta Strickland
October 12, 2017

The ecosystem of microbes that live inside us has been implicated in a range of health issues, so this may explain why babies born by C-section are more likely to grow up overweight, and to develop allergies and asthma in later life.

World Obesity Day: New study reveals that kids born via a c-section delivery are more likely to become obese adults. Those born by C-section gained on average 33 percent more weight in the 15 weeks after weaning.

Babies born by C-section are thought to miss out on these bacteria, which could explain why their microbiomes look different. In the USA, C-sections account for 32 percent of births, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

For this study, researchers observed the effect of c-section birth on 34 mice and the effect of a normal birth on 35 other mice. Conducted on mice, it found that rodents born via c-section are more likely to have an unbalanced amount of good and bad bacteria in their stomachs, which basically increases their chances of gaining weight. While the C-section males were around 20 per cent heavier than their vaginally-born counterparts, the females were 70 per cent heavier, she says.

RG: What differences in the microbiomes of mice born by C-section and those born vaginally did you see?

While the C-section mice are heavier, it isn't clear whether they are actually unhealthy. She studies the microbiome and preterm birth in humans, and notes that it is hard to say what the new results mean for people. One is that they did not use perinatal antibiotics, but the team expects that antibiotics, combined with C-section, could contribute to the weight gain.

Dominguez-Bello: A previous study from our lab showed that, in humans, babies born by Cesarean could have their microbiota restored, meaning their bacterial communities looked more similar to those in babies born vaginally. No wonder women choose to have C-sections.

Dominguez-Bello: We think it's microbes, but we need to prove it.

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