Early Antibiotics Use May Contribute to Childhood Obesity

In our fast-paced, technology driven society, sedentary lifestyles are charged with creating a rise in childhood obesity.  It is estimated that 1/3 of children and adolescents in the US are overweight or obese with 10% of children obese by 24 months of age.  However, there may be another culprit contributing to the rise in weight issues – antibiotic usage as an infant and/or toddler.  

Recent research suggests that children who are given antibiotics during the first two years of life are more likely to be diagnosed with obesity in early childhood. 

The Institute of Medicine Committee on Obesity Prevention Policies for Young Children determined that a range of factors influence early childhood obesity.  These include maternal pre-pregnancy body mass index (BMI), nutritional intake, physical activity, sleep duration, and screen time.  They also suspect that the microbial populations in the intestine (previously suggested to cause obesity later in life) may also be a factor.  Intestinal microflora begins to develop at birth and can be impacted by a variety of dietary and environmental dynamics. 

Not all bacteria is created equal – some is more efficient in extracting energy and growth patterns, both of which impact the health of the individual.  While they may destroy the infection, antibiotics also affect the intestinal bacteria.  Since this has previously been shown to be connected to obesity later in life, researchers wanted to determine if the same was true for infants and children. 

Researchers in the UK and the US reviewed records of thousands of patients.  They looked at age, gender, diagnosis, antibiotic usage, as well as what type of antibiotic and age of the children when the medication was prescribed. 

Both studies showed a strong link between antibiotic usage, especially broad-spectrum antibiotics and childhood obesity.  There was strong evidence that this impact is increased with multiple prescriptions.  Additionally, while there did not seem to be a specific age where antibiotic usage increased risk of obesity, the younger a child was when they received their first exposure to the medication was linked to higher risk. 

Interestingly, narrow spectrum antibiotics did not demonstrate the same effect on obesity rates.  More research on this topic is needed to determine exactly how the antibiotics affect the body’s intestinal flora or other effects they may have on the body that impact the patient’s health.

Obesity has a number of contributing factors, some of which may be altered.  Due to the health issues that are often associated with obesity (either caused by or accompanied by), it is important to determine what factors may put a person at higher risk and resolve those factors in another way where possible. 

This research shows that early antibiotic usage may be one of the factors that may be minimized.  Antibiotics should be limited to when they are truly necessary. 

Proactive healthy practices can help build the immune system allowing the body to fight illness.  Proper exercise/activity (as age appropriate), healthy food choices and regular chiropractic care are just a few ways we can help our children to grow up healthy. 

Talk to your doctor of chiropractic about ways to naturally improve your child’s immune system and promote healthy development. 

 Full research report: http://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapediatrics/fullarticle/1909801