has been a hot topic of debate for some time now as approximately 12.5 million children and adolescents aged two through19 are obese. The recent outrage resulting from the suggestion that obese children should be placed in foster care
has only added fuel to the fire. As health experts and parents alike search for solutions to prevent children from becoming so overweight in the first place, some are questioning just how far we are willing to go. Now, a group of UK researchers are bringing the obesity battle to the unborn.Battling obesity in the womb.
The plan is to enlist 400 obese pregnant women in the UK and give them the diabetes drug Metformin, hoping that it will reduce their unborn babies’ risk of obesity, heart disease and type-2 diabetes later in life. This study will be one of the most comprehensive tests in the practice of fetal programming - changing the womb environment in an attempt to produce healthier children.
Fetal programming isn't a new concept. Taking prenatal vitamins, eating healthy, and avoiding alcohol and drugs all fall under the protective umbrella of fetal programming. However this new study would take the concept to a whole new level. The idea is to give medications to an expectant mother that she wouldn't otherwise need in an attempt to change the fetal environment.
Dr. Allison Stuebe, an assistant professor of maternal fetal medicine at UNC Chapel Hill, tells us that natural fetal programming has evolved over millions of years to help the fetus know about the world it will enter once it is born. “It is the way the mother ‘tells’ her baby what the world outside will be like.”
For example, obese pregnant women have higher glucose levels during pregnancy
. These high glucose levels basically tell the fetus to make more insulin. That's why infants born to obese mothers often weigh more and produce more insulin as well. These larger babies mature into children and adults who have an increased risk for obesity, type-2 diabetes and heart disease.
By giving non-diabetic obese mothers Metformin, their own glucose levels will decrease and hopefully lower the negative consequences of maternal obesity.
Obviously, this proposal has been met with some controversy. That’s to be expected since ultimately doctors will be giving mothers drugs they don't actually need. Many feel that diet and exercise is the answer and in most cases it is - but we all know it's not the reality. Time will only tell if Metformin will be an alternative that will benefit both the mother and the unborn baby.