A new study has indicated that babies born by Cesarean section have a significantly higher risk of developing diabetes in childhood.
Although the reason for the link is not clear, scientists believe exposure to hospital bacteria may be involved. Childhood infections, along with genetics, are already known to play an important role in the development of type 1 diabetes.
The disease is an auto- immune disorder in which the immune system attacks insulin-producing cells in the pancreas.
Type 1 diabetes usually occurs in childhood and has to be managed with life-long insulin injections. Type 2 diabetes, a different disease linked to lifestyle and obesity.
The Caesarean discovery emerged from an analysis of the results of 20 published studies on type 1 diabetes in children.
Researchers found children delivered by Caesarean section were 23 per cent more likely to develop the disease than those who had natural births.
The increased risk could not be explained by other factors such as birth weight, mother's age, order of birth, pregnancy-related diabetes or whether or not a baby was breast-fed.
Dr Chris Cardwell, from Queen's University Belfast, who led the research, which was reported in online journal Diabetologia, said: "This study shows a consistent 20 per cent increase in the risk of type 1 diabetes."
"It is important to stress that the reason for this is still not understood, although it is possible that the Caesarean section itself is responsible," The Scotsman quoted him, as adding.