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"Born Identity" -- The Discovery Files

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Amanda Veile, an assistant professor of biological anthropology, found that the size of the mother and the method of delivery predict child growth patterns through age 5 in the Yucatec Maya. Her findings, with co-author Karen Kramer of the University of Utah, were published in the American Journal of Human Biology.

Credit: NSF/Karson Productions

Audio Transcript:

Delivery proclivity.

I'm Bob Karson with the Discovery Files from the National Science Foundation.

There's evidence out there that a common method of delivering a baby is linked to childhood obesity. To learn more, researchers at Purdue University needed to study a population that has modern healthcare but hasn't been influenced by other factors of modern living that can contribute to obesity. They found one (Sound effect: village sfx) an indigenous group of Maya people in a remote Yucatec Village in Mexico. People not influenced by fast food, a sedentary lifestyle, or high-fat, high-sugar diets.

The team followed 57 Maya mothers and the hundred-and-eight children born to them between 2007 and 2014. The first 5 years of growth were tracked monthly. Although none of the children would be considered obese by age 5, there were notable differences in their sizes suggesting birth method could play a role in how kids develop.

Turned out children born by cesarean had a higher body mass index. And higher still if their mom's had a high body mass index, too.

One theory is that babies born naturally are exposed to "good" bacteria from the mother during birth (Sound effect: baby cries) something cesarean-delivered babies miss out on. Those bacteria go on to play important roles in the development of immune function and metabolism.

More research is needed, but it does seem there's a link between method of birth and childhood girth.

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