New research suggests that an early exposure by children to antibiotics may have an association with the development of obesity in later life.
The research has come about based on the observation that, since the 1950s, some farmers have added antibiotics to animal feeds in order to rear animals with a greater weight (so that the animal contains more ‘meat’ when it is sold for slaughter and consumption). More recent research has shown that the part that antibiotics play in this is by altering the composition of bacteria in the animal’s gut.
The Irish Times notes that, from this, scientists have reasoned that an early exposure to antibiotics in childhood could have the same effect of altering the balance of bacteria in the human gut and where this balance goes too far in one direction, this can trigger obesity.
Based on this premise, and as summarized in the research brief, a scientific team undertook some studies using mice. With this, the researchers administered a low level of antibiotics into one group of healthy mice and lefty another group of mice alone. The two groups were kept in the same conditions and fed the dame food. The researchers observed that the mice receiving antibiotics developed increased fat mass. After about six weeks, the mice that received antibiotics had gained about 10 to 15% more fat mass than the mice that did not receive antibiotics. The researchers also noted that bone density was significantly increased in the mice given antibiotics early in development and that particular hormones related to metabolism were affected by antibiotic exposure, as well.
According to the Daily Telegraph, this could mean that the administration of antibiotics in early life could lead to the development of obesity as people become older.
The reason for the difference was due to the changes in the type of bacteria found in the guts of the mice which led to the two groups metabolizing food differently. The research illustrates the human gut bacterial content is more complicated, and more linked to the way the body works, than previously thought.
The research was led by Ilseung Cho, based at the NYU Langone Medical Center, and the findings were published in the journal Nature.