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Last Updated on October 4, 2023
Research linking increased in-utero Electromagnetic Field (EMF) exposure to childhood obesity suggests that limiting EMF exposure while pregnant can reduce the risk of your child being overweight or obese.
Electromagnetic Fields, or EMFs emit from all electronic devices, with higher levels emitting from wireless mobile devices like laptops and cell phones. Carrying these devices close to our bodies over a long period of time has been shown by research to have potentially harmful health effects.
However, these magnetic fields affect children more.
EMF poses a unique health risk to unborn children due to their very conductive and fast-growing tissues, multiplying any small biological change. That’s why women are asked if they are pregnant before getting an X-ray scan. Consequently, pregnant women are advised to take precautions to limit their exposure in order to protect the health of their offspring.
A recent study conducted by scientists from Kaiser Permanente Research Division has linked high levels of in-utero exposure to magnetic fields to childhood obesity.
The study, which was published online in Nature’s Scientific Reports, showed that children who were exposed to high levels of magnetic radiation while in their mother’s womb had a 69% higher risk of suffering from weight problems and obesity during childhood than children who had low in-utero exposure to magnetic fields.
Link Between EMF Exposure and Childhood Obesity
The researchers conducted a cohort study on a group of women from Northern California who measured their EMF exposure levels throughout their pregnancy, and followed the clinical records of growth data of 733 children born to this group of women until they were thirteen years old. An average of thirty-three weight measurements were recorded for each child in the study group.
The researchers observed that children who were exposed to higher doses of in-utero EMF not only had a higher risk of obesity, but that this risk increased further still as the dose of EMF levels increased. According to the researchers, this is the first epidemiological study to provide evidence of a link between increasing EMF exposure, particularly fetal exposure in the mother’s womb, to the rapid increase in childhood obesity over the corresponding years of the study.
“These findings indicate that Electromagnetic Fields, from microwave ovens to countless wireless devices, may be contributing to childhood obesity risk.”
“Pregnancy is a critical developmental stage that is among the most vulnerable periods to environmental exposures,” said De-Kun Li, a perinatal epidemiologist with the Kaiser Permanente Northern California Division of Research in Oakland, California, and lead author of the study. “These findings indicate that Electromagnetic Fields, from microwave ovens to countless wireless devices, may be contributing to childhood obesity risk. 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.”
The researchers looked at a total of 18 factors that could affect the outcome of the study, including: prenatal factors, maternal factors and childhood factors.
Of all the factors assessed, only household income and a childhood diet rich in fruit and vegetables, differed between the three maternal EMF exposure groups, but these were inconsistent. For example, mothers with both high and low household income had lower levels of EMF exposure than mothers with medium household income; and children that ate more fruit and veggies tended to be born to mothers in the group that were exposed to higher levels of EMF during their pregnancy. Therefore, of the 18 factors assessed, none could account for the observed association between EMF exposure and obesity.
Pregnancy Risks Associated with EMF Exposure
This research follows on from Dr Li’s previous studies that showed EMFs may negatively affect pregnancy outcomes and can cause childhood diseases such as asthma. According to Dr Li, previous studies on humans have linked exposure to high levels of Electromagnetic Fields to higher risk of diabetes, while studies on animals have shown a link between high levels of EMF exposure and having high glucose levels, being overweight, and offspring having ADHD.
“EMF exposure during pregnancy could impact the fetal development, including endocrine and metabolic systems, predisposing offspring to higher risk of obesity,” said Dr Li, adding that the impact of EMF exposure on the developing fetus tends to be amplified. Not only does it affect several internal organs and systems of the body, but it tends to have long-lasting physiological effects.
What Should Expectant Mothers Do?
“Expectant mothers should take this new research into account, but they should not panic,” said Ruth Shaber, medical director of the Center for Healthcare Delivery at the Kaiser Permanente Care Management Institute. “We still have a lot more to learn about the impact of the environment on pregnancy and young children.”
While there may be no need for pregnant women to panic, they should be aware of the risks and take precautions to reduce their EMF exposure. Laptops, tablets and cell phones are particularly harmful because we use them every day, and often for lengthy periods. Consider protecting your health, and the health of your unborn child, by using an EMF radiation shield that offers a protective barrier against harmful EMF radiation.