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Big babies: High birthweight may signal later health risks

Being born big may mean a higher lifetime risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and more

By
2:11pm, May 16, 2014
19-pound 4-day-old baby

BORN BIG  High-birthweight newborns, such as this 4-day-old 19-pound baby (center) born to a diabetic mother, face health risks into adulthood.

We all come into this world with sealed orders, said 19th century philosopher Søren Kierkegaard. Although the great Dane lived at a time when much of science was still gauzy and life events were often ascribed to fate, the notion seems to hold true today. A quick scan of newborn babies snoozing in a maternity ward offers little hint of what their futures hold.

But medical researchers are now unsealing these orders by seizing on a simple clue — a newborn’s weight. Having established that being too small at birth carries health risks down the road, researchers are also finding that high birthweight comes with baggage.

A stream of evidence has upended the long-held assumption that a big baby is a healthy baby. Newborns pushing 9 pounds face an increased risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer and even neurological problems over a lifetime. They are more likely to run afoul of these conditions than are babies born in the “sweet spot

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