Big babies: High birthweight may signal later health risks | Science News



Support credible science journalism.

Subscribe to Science News today.


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

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

This article is available only to subscribing members. Join the Society today or Log in.

Get Science News headlines by e-mail.

More from this issue of Science News

From the Nature Index Paid Content