More Obesity Influencers: Pollution & Low Birth Weight

The findings of two recent studies show that one’s likelihood of becoming obese are influenced early, even before birth. One study looked at air pollution exposure in pregnant women and found that the pollutant polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) is linked with higher rates of childhood obesity.  PAH is a common urban pollutant, which is released into the air from the burning of coal, diesel, oil and gas, or other organic substances such as tobacco.  In a group of children who were followed from the gestation period to age 7, researchers found that the children of mothers with high levels of exposure were almost twice as likely to be obese at age 5, compared with children of mothers with lower levels of PAH exposure during pregnancy. The children of higher levels of exposure were also more than twice as likely to be obese at age 7.

In the second study, researchers at UCLA studied gestational growth-restricted offspring in animal models. From their experiment, they found that the hypothalamus region of the brain is affected in low-birth-weight babies, resulting in a natural tendency to eat more calories.

These studies emphasize the fact that there are many contributors to today’s obesity epidemic. Childhood obesity is an escalating issue in the United States, with experts predicting that a diabetes epidemic is looming as a generation of heavy kids become adults. Many of the patients we work with have been battling obesity since childhood. The American Heart Association recently released a set of recommendations for parents who want to be active in combating childhood obesity in their own homes. You can read more about their recommendations here or visit our website to learn more about obesity and weight loss treatment options.

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