The epidemic of childhood obesity

Childhood obesity is a problem of increasing proportions and has reached epidemic proportions worldwide, both industrialized and newly industrialized. In American children, the prevalence is close to 20%. While efforts to lower obesity levels have focused on diet and physical activity with only limited success, other environmental factors should be examined as well. Among the limited studies that do exist which examine environmental exposures during pregnancy and their effect on childhood obesity, one potential risk factor that often goes completely under the radar is the increasing presence of electromagnetic fields (EMFs) from microwave ovens and wireless devices (Scientific Reports, 2012).

Childhood obesity and EMF exposure

One study showed the effects of EMFs on glucose metabolism, providing direct biological validity for a possible connection with the risk of obesity (JAMA, 2011). In 2012, Scientific Reports found a positive correlation between in-utero exposure to magnetic fields (MFs) and the risk of childhood obesity. Participating women carried a meter measuring MF levels during pregnancy and 733 of their children were followed up with up to 13 years afterwards, to collect information on growth patterns. Prenatal exposure to high MF levels was associated with an increased risk of obesity in offspring compared to those with less exposure. There was a 2.3 fold increased risk among children who participated in the entire study. In-utero exposure has also been linked to ADHD, meaning in-utero exposure could impact fetal development—including endocrine and metabolic systems—creating a predisposition to obesity.

Prevention of childhood obesity

Maternal exposure to high magnetic fields during pregnancy just may be a new and previously unknown factor contributing to the world-wide epidemic of childhood obesity. The good news is, if confirmed by further studies, these findings have the potential to conclusively reveal EMFs as a new environmental risk factor for childhood obesity, which in turn may lead to prevention of the problem by way of popular education campaigns on reduced in-utero exposure, protective devices, and other measures with successful track records. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, after all.

 

References:

Li, D., Ferber, J.R., Odouli, R., Quesenberry Jr, C.P. (2012). “A Prospective Study of In-utero Exposure to Magnetic Fields and the Risk of Childhood Obesity”. Scientific Reports. Retrieved from: https://www.nature.com/articles/srep00540

Volkow, N.D., Tomasi, D., Wang, G.; et al. (2011). “Effects of Cell Phone Radiofrequency Signal Exposure on Brain Glucose Metabolism”. JAMA. Retrieved from: https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/645813

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