Will obesity in a pregnant woman sway her kid's vote?
I gotta tell ya, after reading this article, it's doubtful. Possible, sure--anything is--but doubtful. I love Olivia Judson, the biologist and oft-contributor to the New York Times. She brings out the science nerd buried not so far within me. Her recent musings, however, on whether or not a pregnant woman being obese could determine whether her unborn child would eventually vote Republican or Democrat, might be a tad far-fetched...or are they?
According to Judson, her train of thought on the matter began with a little basic potpourri fact gathering. Judson somewhat humorously turned up a study demonstrating that people who support things like wiretapping and military spending were more likely to be startled by sudden noises and threatening images, while those who responded less were more likely to support immigration and gun control (how do you prove this kind of thing?). She then noted factoids such as birth order in the womb determining the personality of a mammal such as a mouse. Female mice born between other female mice were more docile and attractive to the opposite sex than female mice born between male siblings. The reason? Hormones--more estrogen, less testosterone.
Judson then moved on more toward the point, which is to note that hormones from the mother affect a fetus as well as those from the siblings. She also commented on a growing body of evidence that stress in the pregnant mother can negatively affect her unborn child in terms of learning problems and anxiety. Hormones affect the way a baby's brain develops. Obese women have different hormone levels than their regular-weight counterparts, and the same goes for both types of women when pregnant. Fat cells have their own hormones, called estradiol, which is another form of estrogen. Judson's assertion is that if hormones can affect personality in so many other cases, why not in the instance of the obese pregnant woman as well?
How that could affect her unborn child's vote still seems a little superfluous, but it's worth considering, as currently one in three pregnant women in the United States are diagnosed as obese. My opinion? I don't care who the kids vote for, so long as they get out and vote!
Pic by SanFranAnnie.