Obesity Linked To Antibiotic Use In Children

By Mo Mozuch on August 22, 2012 5:12 PM EDT

photo: Reuters
photo: Reuters

New research published in the International Journal of Obesity is detailing a reported link in obesity rates in children and babies who were given antibiotics before six months of age. The research, conducted by the New York University School of Medicine and the NYU Wagner School of Public Service, found that exposed infants showed small increases in body mass percentiles between 10 and 20 months of age, with the infants having an overall 2 percent greater chance of being overweight by the time they reach 30 months.

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Researchers admit that the study doesn't prove that exposed children will become obese, but enough evidence exists to prove there is a correlation between the two. Dr. Leonardo Trasande, the lead author of the study, believes the cause is found in the millions of bacteria that live in the digestive system.

"We typically consider obesity an epidemic grounded in unhealthy diet and exercise, yet increasingly studies suggest it's more complicated," Trasande told NY Daily News. "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."

The researchers evaluated the use of antibiotics among 11,532 children born in Britain's Avon region in 1991 and 1992 who are participating in a long-term study on their health and development. The children were evaluated based on models that also examined factors such as physical activity, obesity in parents and diet.

The study marks the latest in a string of studies that examine the role probiotic bacteria in the body play in our overall health. Asthma and inflammatory Bowel Disease have been identified as having a possible link to bacteria in the body.  Dr. Jan Blustein, a co-author of the study, wrote in a press release that humans have long been aware of the potential weight gains associated with antibiotics.

"For many years now, farmers have known that antibiotics are great at producing heavier cows for market," Blustein wrote. "While we need more research to confirm our findings, this carefully conducted study suggests that antibiotics influence weight gain in humans, and especially children too."

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