A new study by researchers at the University of Cambridge’s Medical Research Council Epidemiology Unit in England, found that children who are born in the summer can acquire a range of health benefits.
The study published in the journal Heliyon showed that babies who are born in June, July, and August are less likely than others to have a low birth weight. They are also less likely to begin puberty earlier or to be shorter than their peers, says The Huffington Post’s Jacqueline Howard.
“Those are all markers of growth and development that have been associated with higher risks of adult diseases,” said Dr. Ken Ong, a pediatric endocrinologist at the unit and co-author of the study, in an email to The Huffington Post. “I hope people will find it fascinating that events in early life can have very long-lasting benefits.”
The findings are not based on astrology, but rather the “fetal programming” hypothesis, which is the notion that the environment in a mother’s womb can have an important influence on a baby’s health and development. The researchers compared health statistics of 450,000 men and women who were registered in the UK Biobank, which collects data on height, weight, cognitive function, and other variables.
The fact that women born in the summer months were less likely to start puberty early was significant, since there is an increased risk of breast cancer linked to early puberty.
“This is the first time puberty timing has been robustly linked to seasonality,” Dr. John Perry,senior investigator scientist in the epidemiology unit and lead author of the study, said in a written statement. “We were surprised, and pleased, to see how similar the patterns were on birth weight and puberty timing.”
Researchers are not yet sure why there is the apparent link between health and birth date, but one possibility is that mothers who have their children in the summer are likely to have higher levels of vitamin D, which is an organic chemical compound known to effect growth and development.
There tends to be more sunlight in the summer months in the Northern Hemisphere, and exposure to sunlight causes the body, and the womb environment to synthesize vitamin D.
“What [this] tells us is not so much of when we should have babies but whatcontributes [to health] in the environment,” Dr. Nicholas Tatonetti, an assistant professor of biomedical informatics at Columbia University who was not involved in the study, told NBC Today on Monday. “[Birth month effects] are kind of small compared to things you can control.”
Perry said, “Our results show that birth month has a measurable effect on development and health, but more work is needed to understand the mechanisms behind this effect.” The amount of the unborn baby’s vitamin D exposure is likely one of the mechanisms, and the study strongly suggests a possible link, but more study will be needed to confirm the validity of this theory.
The month and day of conception and birth is, for the most part, random, writes Jim Algar for TechTimes. This truth is not affected by social class or the ages and health of the parents, so a study of birth months is an important way to determine how the environment during pregnancy can influence the development and health of a child. The study did not prove a cause-and-effect relationship.