Antibiotics Before Age 2 Can Cause Childhood Obesity

Early antibiotic use has long been associated with many rare long-term health consequences in children.

Early antibiotic use has long been associated with many rare long-term health consequences in children.

New research has discovered links between administration of three or more courses of antibiotics in children younger than two years old and childhood obesity.

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, PA, said, “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. 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.”

To assess the association between early antibiotic use and obesity at four years, the research team conducted a cohort study of 21,714 children who were registered in The Health Improvement Network within three months of birth.

Findings suggested that 1,306 of the children were obese at age four and antibiotic exposure was associated with an increased risk of obesity at four years.

Furthermore, the likelihood of obesity increased with repeated exposures: for one-two prescriptions, OR=1.07; for three-five prescriptions, OR=1.41; and for six or more prescriptions, OR=1.47.

Scott concluded in a press release, “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.”