Study finds a link between antibiotics in infancy and childhood obesity
In a first of its kind study, researchers from the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, led by Dr. L. Charles Bailey, have found that there is a link between antibiotics and obesity in children. Though it cannot be said whether the antibiotics given in infancy are directly responsible for the obesity during childhood, but they could definitely be a contributing factor.
For their research which has been published in the recent issue of JAMA Pediatrics, the researchers collected the health records of 64,580 children, seen by the doctors between 2001 and 2013. All these children had visited the doctor in the first five years of their lives.
The researchers were shocked to observe that almost 70% of the children had received one or more antibiotics before the age of two with an average of two prescriptions per child. 23% of the children were overweight or obese for their age by the age of two. The percentage of obesity rose to 30% by the age of three and 33% by the age of four. The likelihood of the child being obese was directly proportional to the number of times he was exposed to antibiotics.
What was even more intriguing was the fact that children who had received broad spectrum antibiotics were more likely to be obese compared to children who had received a specific or narrow spectrum antibiotic. There was 11% increased likelihood of obesity in children who had been exposed to antibiotics at least four times before they turned two.
The researchers have hypothesized that broad spectrum antibiotics kill the good bacteria present in the gut. The latter are believed to keep the weight in check. However, they have admitted that obesity could also be due to the disease for which the antibiotic was given.
Whatever be the cause, there is a definite association between the use of antibiotics in infants and obesity during childhood. This is all the more reason why physicians should be wary of prescribing antibiotics at the drop of the hat.