Unborn babies given diabetes drug to prevent obesity

A trial to give obese pregnant women a diabetes drug to tackle obesity rates has been branded ‘disturbing’ by weight loss¬†organizations.

A controversial British trial hopes to reduce the number of pregnancy complications due to large babies.

One hundred obese and pregnant patients at Liverpool Women’s hospital will be treated with Metformin, which will reduce food supply to the unborn child. The drug will not help the women themselves to lose weight.

Half the patients will be given Metformin three times a day when they reach 12 weeks pregnant, while the other half will receive placebo drugs. The pregnancies and births of these women will then be monitored to see if the drug has helped to ease complications.

Metformin reduces blood-sugar levels, which is passed on to the baby. It is already used to treat pregnant diabetics.

Doctors hope the medication will prevent babies become too large, and needing C-sections. They also hope it will reduce rates of pre-eclampsia, which is a potentially fatal complication which is common in overweight mums-to-be. In total, the trial will run across 400 women, from both Liverpool and Edinburgh.

Weight loss groups have condemned the trial, however. The organizations are critical of the need for the drug, saying instead healthier food choices and exercise should be encouraged, and have also criticized the lack of research of Metformin. While it is proven to have no negative effects on a child up to the age of two years, no studies exist past this age group.

Will Williams, a scientific analyst for All About Weight, has pointed out that while the drug may prevent overweight newborns, “It is unlikely to break the cycle of an unhealthy lifestyle leading to overweight children and the continuing rise of obesity and diabetes in the general population.”