Can childhood antibiotic use lead to obesity?
Early antibiotic use has been linked to a number of rare long-term health consequences, but a new study published in Gastroenterology has suggested that it can also lead to obesity. The study was performed in the UK and found that increased antibiotic exposure before the age of 2 can lead to a higher risk of being classed as obese by age 4. This was described with a 1.2% increased absolute risk and a 25% relative increase in risk of exposed children to non-exposed children. The risk was seen as strongest with repeated exposures, particularly with 3 or more courses of antibiotics.
Antibiotics have been used to promote weight gain in livestock for many years now, and this study has shown that similar results may be observed in humans. Over prescription of antibiotics is a common worldwide problem that has not only led to antibiotic resistance, but now may also increase the global burden of obesity. The researchers explained that antibiotics should still be used when necessary, but doctors and parents should think twice about prescribing unless they are clearly indicated. Further research is underway to explore if there is any relationship with adolescent weight and antibiotic use, also research is being conducted in the type of antibiotics used and if that has an effect on the amount of weight gained.