C-section birth increases offspring obesity risk dependent on maternal diet and obesity status in rats

Obesity (Silver Spring). 2021 Oct;29(10):1664-1675. doi: 10.1002/oby.23258. Epub 2021 Aug 31.


Objective: The gut microbiota is a complex ecosystem that shapes host metabolism, especially in early life. Maternal vaginal and gut microbiota is vertically transmitted to offspring during natural birth. Offspring born by cesarean section (CS) do not receive these bacteria and exhibit higher obesity risk later in life. The objective of this study was to examine differences in obesity risk between offspring born naturally (NB) or by CS to lean/obese dams.

Methods: Lean and obese rat dams gave birth to offspring naturally or by CS. Offspring obesity risk was analyzed via body weight/composition, food intake, sucrose preference, gut microbiota, and gene expression in gut and brain tissues.

Results: Obese (O)+CS offspring showed greater weight gain and caloric intake but a reduction in hypothalamic agouti related neuropeptide, neuropeptide Y, and interleukin 1β expression compared with O+NB offspring. Lean (L)+CS offspring had higher serum corticosterone concentration and reduced liver peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor γ expression compared with L+NB. O+CS offspring had long-term alterations to gut microbiota, including increased relative abundance of Faecalibaculum and reduced Muribaculaceae.

Conclusions: Overall, CS alters obesity risk differentially based on maternal obesity status. Further studies looking at the risks of obesity associated with CS are needed, with special attention paid to maternal obesity status and gut microbiota.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cesarean Section*
  • Diet
  • Ecosystem*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Obesity
  • Pregnancy
  • Rats
  • Weight Gain

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