BABIES born early by elective caesarean section are at risk of obesity and diabetes later in life, according to research.

The study shows babies delivered just two weeks early are more likely to develop diabetes and become obese when they grow up.

It also means they are at greater risk of dying before their time because of other illnesses triggered by the conditions, the research suggests.

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Scientists also warned elective caesarean sections carried out before term may endanger children.

The health prospects of slightly premature infants, born at 37 to 38 weeks, have traditionally been regarded as similar to those arriving on time. But the latest findings, based on a study of 225,000 children and published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, add to growing evidence this is not the case.

They are more prone to problems with the metabolic and hormona systems that can lead to diabetes and other illnesses.

Professor Eyal Sheiner, of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel, said: “We found hospitalisations up to the age of 18 involving endocrine and metabolic morbidity were found to be more common in the early-term group.