A new study has found a link between the level of certain pesticides in a mother's womb, and the probability that her baby will be obese.
The Spanish study, published in Environmental Health Perspectives, found that DDT breakdown products appear to affect childhood obesity when found in the womb. Researchers followed more than 500 women, beginning in the first trimester of their pregnancies. DDT is banned in Spain (and in the U.S.) but its breakdown product, DDE, is still commonly found in the environment.
The study looked for correlations between pollutants in the moms' blood and growth differences among their children. They found that babies born to normal-weight moms who had exhibited higher than average blood levels of DDE were twice as likely to grow rapidly during their first six months than were infants whose moms showed the lowest DDE levels. By 14 months old, children who had experienced elevated exposures to DDE in the womb were four times as likely to be overweight (as measured by body mass index) when compared to children with lower exposures.
So, they grew fast in their first year — big deal, right? Well, this prevalence of accelerated growth is unusually high among babies, and it's also worrisome because such rapid growth during early infancy has been linked to future obesity in kids.
By the way, the affected babies in the new study were of normal weight at birth, so growth in the womb wasn't a factor. Their moms were also normal weight, so genetics isn't part of the equation, either.