By: Marco Reina

Antibiotic exposure in infancy is already associated with multiple long-term health consequences. Now a new study has suggested a link between antibiotics and childhood obesity.

The study found that administration of three or more prescriptions of antibiotics before the kids are two years old increases their risk for obesity, one of the most growing public health concerns worldwide.

“Antibiotics have been used to promote weight gain in livestock for several decades, and our research confirms that antibiotics have the same effect in humans,” said Frank Irving Scott, MD, MSCE, assistant professor of medicine at University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, Aurora, and adjunct scholar, Center for Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.

According to the new population-based study of 21,714 UK children, exposing children to antibiotics before the age of 2 can elevate their chances of obesity at the age of four by as much as 47 percent.

To reach their findings, researchers examined electronic medical records of the British children who were registered in a national database between 1995 and 2013. After analysing the follow-up data, the researchers found that 6.4 percent of the study children were obese at four years of age.

This risk rose to 21 percent among children who were given antibiotics before four years of age, the findings showed.

To be more precise, one or two antibiotic were increased the childhood obesity risk by only 7 percent, while 3 to 5 antibiotic prescriptions increased the risk to 41 percent and six or more antibiotic prescriptions raised the risk of obesity at four years of age to a whopping 47 percent.

“Our work supports the theory that antibiotics may progressively alter the composition and function of the gut microbiome, thereby predisposing children to obesity as is seen in livestock and animal models,” said Dr. Scott.

Conversely, use of antifungals was not associated with the rise in the risk of obesity.

The findings are preliminary as of now and a bigger randomized controlled experiment needs to be conducted to determine this association. So the researchers affirmed, as of now, one can only say there is a correlation between antibiotic usage during infancy and onset of obesity in childhood.

“Our results do not imply that antibiotics should not be used when necessary, but rather encourage both physicians and parents to think twice about antibiotic usage in infants in the absence of well-established indications,” said Dr. Scott.

The present study was published online in Gastroenterology, the official journal of the American Gastroenterological Association.

Originally Published: Health Newsline