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Girls with Low Birth Weights Have Greater Risk of Obesity Later On

Low birth weight may be linked with obesity later on -- but only in girls.
Photograph by Getty Images/iStockphoto

A new study published in the International Journal of Obesity has some interesting findings about babies with low birth weights—it could mean they're more likely to be obese later on in adulthood. The catch? This only goes for girls.

In a joint study between Baylor College of Medicine, USDA/ARS Children's Nutrition Research Center, and Texas Children's Hospital, researchers examined weight patterns in the offspring of obese female mice. While it was previously thought that their offspring were prone, just like mom, to be overweight and inactive too, this new study actually found the connection between birth weight and adult weight has more to do with a baby girl's experience in the womb rather than genetics. That is, when a girl's growth is restricted in mom's uterus, they're naturally less active in there and unable to grow as large. As a result, the body goes into conservation mode, which after birth may continue and translate into unwanted fat storage.

Dr. Robert Waterland, associate professor of pediatrics and nutrition at BCM, said of the study, "This was surprising because babies born to obese human women tend to be larger at birth, although there is a slightly elevated risk of low birth weight as well. Given that human studies also show female-specific obesity following early growth restriction, it may be prudent to encourage parents of a low birth weight child to promote healthy physical activity—particularly if that child is a girl.

"Millions of low birth weight babies are born every year, so this could be an important factor in the worldwide obesity epidemic."

Plenty of other studies have shone a light on the concerns of lower birth weight babies, too. Research shows that they are more likely to develop other ailments like respiratory tract problems, anemia and even various gastrointestinal problems.

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