According to a new study published in the Journal Scientific Reports, microwaves and other wireless devices can increase the risk of obesity in unborn children.
Researchers have found that electromagnetic fields (EMF) from these electronics, increases the risk of an unborn baby growing up to be overweight or obese by almost 70 percent in the future.
Vulnerability during pregnancy
According to the researchers, this can be attributed to the fragility of pregnancy.
“Pregnancy is a critical developmental stage that is among the most vulnerable periods to environmental exposures,” said lead author, De-Kun Li, a perinatal epidemiologist.
“These findings indicate that electromagnetic fields, from microwave ovens to countless wireless devices, may be contributing to childhood obesity risk,” Dr Li said.
Mothers participating in the research carried a meter that measured the electromagnetic field they were exposed to while they were carrying their baby. The growth of 733 babies born to these women was then analysed. Researchers tracked every child for 11 years, collecting height and weight measurements.
Researchers found that low to medium exposure to electromagnetic fields, was associated with a 50 percent rise in obesity, while high exposure could raise risk by up to about 84 percent.
“This finding could have implications for possibly reducing childhood obesity and better understanding the obesity epidemic. Like any scientific discoveries, the results need to be replicated by other studies,” Dr. Li said.
Researchers examined maternal factors, prenatal factors, childhood factors, outcome measures, and other factors that could be confounders.
Among 18 factors examined, only family income and childhood habits of eating fruits and vegetables varied among the three maternal magnetic field exposure groups.
However, there was no consistent pattern of electromagnetic field exposure with family income. Women with either low or high family income had lower electromagnetic field exposure level than women with medium family income.
Children eating more fruits and vegetables tended to have a mother who had higher magnetic field exposure during pregnancy.
There was no difference among the three electromagnetic field exposure groups in the average number of weight measurements per child.
Essentially, none of the 18 factors examined could explain the observed association.
Previous findings have shown a link between high exposure to electromagnetic fields during pregnancy and asthma risk in children.
In actual fact, they found that babies born to women who were exposed to stronger electromagnetic fields, had more than triple the risk of developing asthma, compared to babies born to women exposed to weaker fields.
Researchers say that environmental factors are amplified during development of the baby in the womb, and these factors affect many organ systems. Some of these changes, they say, remain for a very long time.
“EMF exposure during pregnancy could impact the fetal development, including endocrine and metabolic systems, predisposing offspring to higher risk of obesity,” Dr. Li said.
Previous studies have discovered a link between electromagnetic field exposure and increased asthma risk. According to researchers, environmental factors are amplified during development of the baby in the womb.
Don’t panic, researchers say
“Expectant mothers should take this new research into account, but they should not panic. We still have a lot more to learn about the impact of the environment on pregnancy and young children,” said Dr. Ruth Shaber, medical director of the Center for Healthcare Delivery at the Kaiser Permanente Care Management Institute.