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Weight Matters, Even in the Womb

Status at birth can foreshadow illnesses decades later

In the bathroom, at the gym, and in the doctor's office, most people in the United States keep an eye on the scale. We're usually more concerned about weighing too much than weighing too little. There's a social stigma to being heavy and public health messages regularly warn us that extra fat leads to a higher-than-average risk of developing high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and other chronic ailments.

The public health message, though, would be very different if it targeted babies about to be born. A growing number of studies confirm that small, thin newborns are more likely to develop certain chronic diseases when they become adults than are babies who are born heavier.

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