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