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PAMPLONA, Spain, October 22, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) — The use of oral contraceptives among women increases the risk of obesity, according to new research.

Researchers at Spain’s University of Navarre analyzed the results of a longitudinal study of nearly 5,000 women over the course of eight years. Lead researcher Alfredo Gea and colleagues at the university’s Center for Research on Obesity and Nutrition (Ciberobn) published their findings in the International Journal of Obesity. The study is titled “Oral contraceptives use and development of obesity in a Mediterranean cohort: the SUN (Seguimiento Universidad de Navarra) Project” and was published in August.

According to the study, the use of oral contraceptives by women over the course of two or more years is related to an increase of 78% in the probability of obesity in the following eight years. The abstract of the study stated, “The use of oral contraceptives (OC) has been suggested to represent a potential risk factor for the development of obesity.”

Regarding methodology, the authors noted that the study population consisted of 4,920 female university graduates who were identified as “initially nonobese” with a mean age of 28.2 years. The use of oral contraceptives was self-reported, while the body mass index of the subjects was assessed at the onset and every two years thereafter. For the purposes of the study, the female subjects were divided into two groups. The women of one group were regular users of oral contraceptives, while those of the other group were not.

The results of the study showed that obesity becomes especially prevalent among women who consistently use oral contraceptives over time. Researcher Álvaro San Juan Rodríguez of the University of Pittsburgh told Spanish newspaper ABC that the study proved that “the risk of developing obesity in the following years practically doubles among the women who regularly used oral contraceptives and almost tripled among those who used it continuously for more than two years.”

Gea urged caution in the use of oral contraceptives, which are more and more commonly used.

The study noted that obesity has become a global public health issue that has reached “epidemic proportions” and presents a major challenge to human health. According to the authors, “obesity increases the risk of diabetes, hypertension, coronary heart disease, stroke, obstructive sleep apnea, and certain types of cancer, among other diseases.”

The authors wrote that available evidence is highly inconsistent as to how oral hormonal contraceptive may cause weight gain. “Weight gain may be a result of fluid retention, fat deposition, muscle mass gain, or any combination of the aforementioned elements,” the study said.

No previous large prospective studies have assessed the long-term risk of oral contraceptive use, wrote the authors.

Previous studies have indicated links between oral contraceptive use and debilitating or deadly blood clots. Oral contraceptive pills can cause elevated levels of cholesterol, migraine headaches, high blood pressure, various forms of cardiovascular disease, and cancer. According to the National Cancer Institute, women who have used oral contraceptives are at a slightly higher risk for breast cancer. The government agency noted that women who have used oral contraceptives are also at a higher risk of endometrial and cervical cancer.