Antibiotics: Frequent Use During Childhood Linked To Weight Gain

First Posted: Oct 21, 2015 05:24 PM EDT

Antibiotic use during childhood may increase the risk of weight gain later in life, according to recent findings published in the International Journal of Obesity.

Previous research has suggested that antibiotics could lead to weight gain because of the effect they have on the microbiota. For instance, while antibiotics help to kill off harmful bacteria, bacteria that is also vital to gastrointestinal health may be destroyed in the process.

The study found that children who had been prescribed antibiotics more than seven times were likely to weigh 3 pounds by age 15 when compared to those who had received no antibiotics.

During the study, researchers examined the medical records of 163,820 children between the ages of 3 to 18. Approximately 30,000 children or 21 percent had taken seven or more antibiotic prescriptions. Other factors were also taken into account, including height and body weight. 

"While the magnitude of the weight increase attributable to antibiotics may be modest by the end of childhood, our finding that the effects are cumulative raises the possibility that these effects continue and are compounded into adulthood," said lead study author Brian S. Schwartz, MD, MS, a professor in the Department of Environmental Health Sciences at the Bloomberg School, via Laboratory Equipment.

Researchers concluded that the results stress to use the antibiotics rather sparingly, so as not to put children in danger of a future risk of obesity.

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