Pesticide chemical DDT may be linked to an increase in childhood obesity. According to Environmental Health Perspectives, infants displayed faster than normal weight gain during the first 6 months of life after being exposed to DDT. By 14 months of age, body mass index was measured above normal.

Information was collected between 2004 and 2006 from 518 Spanish women in the first trimester of pregnancy. Women who started the pregnancy in a normal weight range and were exposed to high levels of DDT (in the 75th percentile) producing high levels of a DDT byproduct, DDE, were two times more likely to have infants with rapid weight gain in the first 6 months after birth. Women who fell into the 50th percentile for DDE levels in the blood were three times as likely to have infants with a high body mass index by 14 months of age. When women were overweight and pregnant, DDE levels did not impact the weight of baby at 6 or 14 months.

There have been two other studies resulting in the same increased weight gain in infants born to mothers exposed to the pesticide DDT. In this study, however, weight gain was measured immediately after birth narrowing down how quickly the pesticide affected weight gain.

After taking smoking, breastfeeding and other factors into consideration, the research team continues to study children in the group. Infants are now 4 years of age. When asked about the source of the pesticide, lead author and epidemiologist Michelle A. Mendez suggests, "Most of the exposure to organochlorine compounds is thought to come from the diet.”

Source: Michelle A. Mendez, Raquel Garcia-Esteban, Mónica Guxens, Martine Vrijheid, Manolis Kogevinas, Fernando Goñi, Silvia Fochs, and Jordi Sunyer. Environmental Health Perspectives. 6 October, 2010.

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