Preventing Obesity in Babies

Something special happens when you can take a solution for one medical condition and apply it to help heal another one. There is a simplicity and beauty in being able to use the same medicine for two different causes. Each year there are more incidences of diabetes and obesity and these diseases threaten young and old alike. However in Great Britain there are now plans to take a tried and trusted diabetic drug and use it help reduce obesity in children. Let’s look at what is involved.


A gift from a mother to her baby. What could be a more natural transaction? However in today’s busy and over indulgent world there are increasing concerns over obese babies born to obese women. Babies who weigh more than 10 pounds are approximately twice as likely to become obese when they are adults. This leads to the suggestion that some cases of obesity might be programmed whilst the baby is in the womb. If this is true, and there is compelling evidence that there is a direct relationship here, then there are a lot of babies who,through no fault of their own, face an unhealthy life. How many might this be? Well just over 15% of pregnant women are already obese and almost half the women of child bearing age are overweight.

At the moment obese women will produce more insulin which in turn increases the fat and sugars which are supplied to the baby through the umbilical cord. If we could reduce the amount of insulin produced then there would be a proportionate benefit to the baby whilst in the womb.

This reduction might also lead to a lower requirement for caesarean sections as well as reducing the risk of pre-eclampsia which can be a fatal complication.

So how is it implemented?

The diabetes drug, metformin, which is widely available, will reduce the levels of insulin in the blood and through this reduce the passage of fats and sugars to the baby. Metformin is a well established drug with a safe record. It is an oral antidiabetic drug and a first-line drug of choice for the treatment of type 2 diabetes. Fortunately it also has few adverse effects. It has been available in the UK since 1958 and received approval from the US food and Drug Administration in 1995.

The clinical trial

The trial will involve 400 obese but non diabetic mothers to be. The metformin will be prescribed from when they are approximately 12 weeks pregnant. Half will receive the drug and half will receive placebos. Let’s hope that this will bring positive results and we can start to improve the lives of these young souls.

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