Has Our Weight Obsession Gone Too Far When We Reduce a Fetus' Food Supply?

Christie Haskell

Obesity is a huge problem, especially in the US, since it's often joined by many the health problem (though not all overweight people are unhealthy). We've discovered over decades that obese mothers often have children who are also obese, though there's plenty of argument as to whether that's genetic or lifestyle, but research points to both.

The National Health Service has decided to take 400 non-diabetic but obese pregnant women to see if giving them a drug during pregnancy can help prevent their babies from being obese, since their studies imply that obesity-programming starts in utero.

Um ... oooookay.

Apparently half the women will be started on a regime of Metformin, a drug given to diabetics and women with PCOS to regulate the insulin hormone, at about 12 weeks on, three pills a day. The other half will receive placebos, and they will monitor them and their babies for four years.

I read this with trepidation, since I have PCOS myself and have read how sick women got when started on Metformin, though it's considered pretty safe, regardless. But I know most clinical trials are always going to sound scary. You're putting yourself and your baby through the unknown, and who wants to make their infant a guinea pig?

But there are statistical differences with obese women in pregnancy and childbirth, such as a higher likelihood of stillbirth, maternal death, and preeclampsia, plus no one wants their child to have to fight weight battles if they don't have to, right?

Then I read this line in the Daily Mail's coverage of the study:

It is hoped that using Metformin to lower levels of insulin will reduce the food supply and cut the odds of babies being born obese.

Maybe that was phrased wrong, but reducing the food supply to the fetus just sounds like a BAD idea to me, as does giving diabetic/insulin drugs to women who aren't insulin-resistant. But what do I know? I'm not a doctor or scientist.

Dr. Ian Campbell, medical director of charity Weight Concern, said that "in an ideal world we would be in a position to assist women to be of a near-normal body weight prior to conception. But that is not realistic in the current environment."

I don't know ... maybe rather than drugging up moms with medicines not intended for them, we should work on our general system of life to make fresh fruit cost LESS than a bag of Fritos, or get doctors to really look for medical issues rather than telling obese women to "strap on a sweatband" (yes, actually said to me before I was diagnosed with PCOS), and help people prevent obesity that way? Just a thought.

What do you think of this study? Would you try it?


Image via Farm_Studio_Field/Flickr

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