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Unborn Babies Exposed to Technology's Magnetic Fields Face Increased Risk of Childhood Obesity

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Prenatal exposure to high magnetic field levels—widely present in today's high tech world—could raise the risk of a unborn baby becoming overweight or obese in childhood, according to a recent study by Kaiser Permanente in Oakland, California.

The local Northern California women participating in the prospective study carried a meter to measure their surrounding magnetic field levels during pregnancy. Of these women, 733 of their children were tracked for up to 13 years after, states a Kaiser press release. On average, researchers collected 33 weight measurements per child.

The researchers discovered that in-utero exposure to relatively high magnetic field levels correlated with a 69 percent increased risk of a child being overweight or obese compared to lower in-utero magnetic field levels.

"Pregnancy is a critical developmental stage that is among the most vulnerable periods to environmental exposures," said De-Kun Li, MD, PhD, a perinatal epidemiologist with the Kaiser Permanente, and the 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."

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The study appears in the July 2012 issue of the journal Nature's Scientific Reports.

The journal notes that other studies have shown that electromagnetic fields have been associated with diabetes in humans, and overweight and high glucose levels in animals. Furthermore, a recently published paper in Scientific Reports reveals mice exposed to in-utero electromagnetic fields birthed offspring with unusually high rates of ADHD, indicating that proximity to the fields could affect fetal neurological development, at least in mice.