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A Pill to Prevent Childhood Obesity: Would You Take It?

By Madeline Holler |

child obesity, pregnant woman

We can't all be skinny pregnant women! A diabetes pill may some day be prescribed for obese pregnant women.

As more studies conclude that weight-gain is programmed before birth, researchers are now attempting to see whether they can change a person’s health destiny before they are even born.

Going a step further, one drug manufacturer is launching a trial to see if obesity risk for kids can be reversed by giving pregnant moms a pill — actually, lots of pills. Up to three a day during pregnancy.

In the U.K., the National Health Service has approved a medical trial of the diabetes drug, metformin, which has been used successfully to treat diabetes for years. What health officials want to know is whether metformin prevents babies from gaining excessive amounts of weight while in utero, a risk factor, some studies conclude, for developing obesity in childhood.

The pill therapy is designed to reduce the food supply to the fetus. Metformin lowers the amount of insulin a body makes. Lower levels of insulin means less food for the developing fetus. Metformin has already been approved for use by diabetic pregnant women. The trial will test whether the drug is safe for non-diabetic, but obese, pregnant women and their future babies. Four hundred women have enrolled in the trial.

In four years, we’ll know whether the drug worked in significantly lowering a child’s risk of developing obesity as a toddler and early pre-schooler.

Researchers think metformin show promise in preventing obese moms from overfeeding the fetus and programming their child’s body in a way that ups their risk of overweight and obesity. They also think it may reduce certain complications obese pregnant women are at risk for, such as c-sections, pre-eclampsia and stillbirth.

What’s interesting to me is that one outcome we always hear about with respect to obese pregnant women is low birth-weight babies. If this drug is to keep babies from growing too big, couldn’t it also keep them too small?

Would you take a pill if you knew it would lower your child’s risk for obesity? What if you knew that the pill had outcomes equal to pregnant women who simply cut back on food and upped exercise?

Photo: Schwangerschaft via flickr

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About Madeline Holler


Madeline Holler

Madeline Holler is a writer, journalist, and blogger. She has written for Babble since the site launched in 2006. Her writing has appeared in various other publications both online and in print, including Salon and True/Slant (now Forbes). A native of the Midwest, Madeline lives, writes, and parents in Southern California, where she's raising two daughters and a son. Read bio and latest posts → Read Madeline's latest posts →

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5 thoughts on “A Pill to Prevent Childhood Obesity: Would You Take It?

  1. goddess says:

    NO effin way!

  2. Rosana says:


  3. Miss Chris says:

    Pregnant women + experimental daily drug therapy designed to produce long term effects on the fetus/child. What could go wrong?

  4. Kiki says:

    No. I’d do it the natural way. Eat healthy before getting pregnant, during pregnancy and teach my child to eat healthy once it is born. Medicines are for emergencies and sickness. I would not use them only to make my job easier.

  5. Marissa says:

    I was an obese child. I lost the weight in my teenage years and kept it off. But I still look back on those days and think of how unhappy I was when I was overweight. I have three very healthy kids now ages 5, 2, and 3 months, but it is hard work to keep them at a healthy weight these days. So if when I was pregnant, and the drug was safe, and would help my future child, I can’t say I wouldn’t at least think about taking it.

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