Antibiotics linked to childhood obesity

Posted Oct 5, 2014 by Tim Sandle
A new study suggests that taking multiple courses of common antibiotics before the age of two may increase a child’s risk of obesity in later life.
Tom Varco (CC BY-SA 3.0)
A new piece of research has been reported that links antibiotics administered to children with obesity. This was based on a survey conducted of health records of more than 64,000 children. The conclusion, from this observational study, was that antibiotic use before the age of two is associated with increased obesity risk before age five.
Furthermore, the findings showed that children who were given four or more courses of common antibiotics before age two were at particularly high risk of developing childhood obesity. The consequences are important because the study revealed that 69 percent of children studied had been given antibiotics in their first two years of life.
Commenting on the results, Charles Bailey of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia told Time magazine: "Our hope is that we can find out what the risk factors are in early childhood and do a better job not just at preventing this, but of identifying the kids . . . who then can change their path by changing their lifestyle and changing the healthcare they get."
The reason for the link is put down to broad-spectrum antibiotics, which kill a range of different bacteria. Studies suggest that a tendency towards obesity is linked to the proportion of beneficial bacteria in the gut. Antibiotics can kill both "good" and "bad" bacteria, leading to a disruption of the human gut microbiota.
The study has been published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics, and it is headed "Association of Antibiotics in Infancy With Early Childhood Obesity."
It should be noted that the study looked at past data and drew a correlation between antibiotic prescriptions and the weight of children.