Antibiotic Use in Infants Linked with Extra Weight

A new study from researchers at the NYU School of Medicine found that babies who were given antibiotics before six months of age were more likely to be overweight at age three. The study of more than 11,500 British children found that children who received antibiotics between birth and 5 months were 22 percent more likely to be overweight at 38 months, compared to children who did not receive antibiotics in the first several months of life.  The researchers found that antibiotic usage in older babies (6–14 months of age) did not significantly increase the likelihood of being overweight at 38 months.  They also found that at age seven, children who received antibiotics between ages 15–23 months had a somewhat higher-than-normal Body Mass Index (BMI) for their age and gender; however they were not significantly more likely to be overweight or obese.

The researchers caution that their findings do not say that antibiotic use in young babies causes excess weight later in childhood, but rather their findings show that there is a correlation between the two. Lead researcher, Leonardo Trasande, NYU associate professor of pediatrics and environmental medicine, explained why antibiotics may be affecting body weight later in life: “Microbes in our intestines may play critical roles in how we absorb calories, and exposure to antibiotics, especially early in life, may kill off healthy bacteria that influence how we absorb nutrients into our bodies, and would otherwise keep us lean,” he said.

Childhood obesity is now estimated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to affect as much as 17 percent of American youth.  This is more than the triple the rate of just one generation ago. As with obesity in adults, childhood obesity is a multifaceted disease and research is showing that it has both environmental and genetic components. Studies such as these add the growing list of possible factors driving today’s obesity epidemic. You can learn more about childhood obesity and the steps parents can take to prevent it with these recommendations from the American Heart Association.

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