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The surprising health risk associated with being a first-born

by , 02 September 2015

Are you struggling with weight while your little sister's as thin as a rail? Well, it turns out, you're probably not alone!

According to a new study in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, first-born women may be more likely to be overweight or obese compared to their young sisters. Keep reading to find out more.

New study finds that a first-born daughter is more like to be overweight or obese than her young sister

For the study, researchers looked at more than 13,000 pairs of Swedish sisters and found that the older siblings were 29% more likely to be overweight and 40% more likely to be obese by their mid-twenties than their younger counterparts. 
Keep in mind that this isn’t a huge jump in risk; that means older siblings have 1.29 times the risk of being overweight and 1.4 times the risk of being obese than young sibs, rather than, say, 10 or 20 times the risk.

So why do older sisters usually end up heavier?

If it’s proven, it’s unclear why older sisters may end up heavier, but one hypothesis is that during a first pregnancy, the blood vessels in a mother’s uterus are more narrow. “And this information has led to the hypothesis that first-borns were exposed to in utero compromise, which reprograms metabolism and the regulation of fat,” study co-author Wayne Cutfield explained to Today.com. 

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In other words, a lower energy supply in the womb may lead to a bigger appetite and the way the body regulates weight later on. Or it’s possible that the care and feeding of a first-born differs from siblings in a way that impacts weight later on.
Interestingly, this isn’t the first study to link health issues to being the oldest. For one thing, this study echoes previous findings that first-born men are also more likely to be heavier than their kid brothers.
But also, eldest children may be more likely to have reduced insulin sensitivity (a problem linked to the development of type 2 diabetes) and higher blood pressure compared to later-born children, a 2013 study in theJournal of Clincial Endocrinology & Metabolism found. This may set the stage for a higher likelihood of metabolic and cardiovascular diseases in adulthood, the authors concluded.

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