Risk of Childhood Obesity Linked to Pregnant Mom’s Exposure to Magnetic Fields

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http://www.examiner.com/article/risk-of-childhood-obesity-linked-to-pregnant-mom-s-exposure-to-magnetic-fields

High magnetic field levels could raise the risk of an unborn baby becoming overweight or obese after the child is born. One more exposure scientists link to childhood obesity is the pregnant mother’s exposure to magnetic fields before the birth of her baby, according to a new study by Kaiser Permanente in Northern California.

Local researchers conducted the prospective cohort study, in which participating women in Kaiser Permanente’s Northern California region carried a meter measuring magnetic field levels during pregnancy and 733 of their children were followed up to 13 years, to collect clinically recorded information on growth patterns. On average, 33 weight measurements per child were collected, according to a July 27, 2012 Kaiser Permanente news release, “”In-Utero Exposure to Magnetic Fields Associated with Increased Risk of Obesity in Childhood.””

In-utero exposure to relatively high magnetic field levels was associated with a 69 percent increased risk of being obese or overweight during childhood compared to lower in-utero magnetic field levels, according to a Kaiser Permanente study that appears in the current online version of the journal Nature Scientific Reports (Health Research). Also see, Scientific Reports FAQs – Nature.

Dose-related relationship with increasing in-utero magnetic field levels with increased risk of childhood obesity

Researchers noted a dose response relationship with increasing in-utero magnetic field levels being associated with further increased risk of obesity or being overweight. The observed association and supporting evidence provide the first epidemiologic findings that link increasing exposure to environmental magnetic fields, especially in-utero exposure, over the last few decades with the rapid rise in childhood obesity during the corresponding decades, according to the authors.

“Pregnancy is a critical developmental stage that is among the most vulnerable periods to environmental exposures,” said Dr. De-Kun Li, the lead author of the study, according to Kaiser Permanente’s July 27, 2012 news release, “”In-Utero Exposure to Magnetic Fields Associated with Increased Risk of Obesity in Childhood.”” De-Kun Li, MD, PhD, is a perinatal epidemiologist with the Kaiser Permanente Northern California Division of Research in Oakland, California.

Wireless devices and microwave ovens may be contributing to the risk of childhood obesity

“These findings indicate that electromagnetic fields, from microwave ovens to countless wireless devices, may be contributing to childhood obesity risk. This finding could have implications for possibly reducing childhood obesity and better understanding the obesity epidemic. Like any scientific discoveries, the results need to be replicated by other studies,”” Dr. De-Kun Li explained in the July 27, 2012 Kaiser-Permanente news release.

After controlling for a child’s age at each weight measurement, child gender, maternal age at delivery, pre-pregnancy BMI, race, education level, smoking during pregnancy and breastfeeding, researchers reported a 50 percent increase of participants being obese or overweight for medium in-utero levels (1.5-2.5 mG), and an 84 percent increased risk for high in-utero levels (more than 2.5mG). An mG, or milligauss, represents a unit of magnetic field level or strength as measured using a gaussmeter.

The study follows up on a previous study that showed how electromagnetic fields may impact pregnancy outcomes and childhood diseases including asthma and diabetes

This study follows previous work from Dr. Li (and others) that showed electromagnetic fields may impact pregnancy outcomes and childhood diseases including asthma. Higher EMF levels have also been associated with diabetes in humans, being overweight and high glucose levels in animals, and ADHD in mice offspring, explained Dr. Li in the Kaiser news release.

In the current study, among those children with longer follow-up time (to the end of the study), the observed association was stronger (2.35 times the risk of childhood obesity/overweight for in-utero MF level > 1.5 mG vs. ≤ 1.5 mG). Similarly, if the study only considered those who were persistently obese/overweight through childhood during the follow-up, the association was also much stronger (almost five-fold increased risk of obesity/overweight for in-utero MF level > 1.5 mG vs. < 1.5 mG).

Electro-magnetic frequencies during pregnancy could impact fetal development

“EMF exposure during pregnancy could impact the fetal development, including endocrine and metabolic systems, predisposing offspring to higher risk of obesity,” Dr. Li said in Kaiser’s news release. He added that environmental impacts tend to be amplified during fetal development, both in terms of affecting multiple organ systems and having long-lasting changes to physiology, such as to the endocrine systems and hormone receptors.

Researchers examined maternal factors, prenatal factors, childhood factors, outcome measures and other factors that could be confounders. Among 18 factors examined, only family income and childhood habits of eating fruits and vegetables varied among the three maternal MF exposure groups. However, there was not a consistent pattern of MF exposure with family income: women with either low or high family income had lower MF exposure level than women with medium family income.

Environmental impacts tend to be amplified during fetal development

Children eating more fruits and vegetables tended to have a mother who had higher MF exposure during pregnancy. There was no difference among the three MF exposure groups in the average number of weight measurements per child. The proportion of children who remained in the Kaiser Permanente Northern California integrated care delivery system at the end of the study (11 years and older) was almost identical in all three groups. None of the 18 factors examined could explain the observed association.

“Expectant mothers should take this new research into account, but they should not panic,” said Ruth Shaber, MD, medical director of the Center for Healthcare Delivery at the Kaiser Permanente Care Management Institute, according to the Kaiser news release. “We still have a lot more to learn about the impact of the environment on pregnancy and young children.”

Low-fat diets, weight-loss and menopause, another recent Kaiser study

You may also want to check out another Kaiser study published on July 11, 2012, “”Weight Loss Resulting from a Low-Fat Diet May Help Eliminate Hot Flashes and Night Sweats in Menopausal Women.””

Weight loss that occurs in conjunction with a low-fat, high fruit and vegetable diet may help to reduce or eliminate hot flashes and night sweats associated with menopause, according to a Kaiser Permanente Division of Research study that appears in the current issue of the journal Menopause.

This Women’s Health Initiative study of 17,473 women found that women on a diet low in fat and high in whole grains, fruit and vegetables, who had menopausal symptoms, who were not taking hormone replacement therapy, and who lost weight (10 or more pounds or 10 or more percent of their baseline body weight), were more likely to reduce or eliminate hot flashes and night sweats after one year, compared to those in a control group who maintained their weight.

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