Pediatricians routinely prescribe antibiotics to their youngest patients for many common infections. One danger of course is antibiotic resistance but now a new study suggests some may also be more likely to grow fat.
An analysis published in the Journal of American Medical Association Pediatrics looked at about 65,000 children at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, from 2001 through 2013. A few courses of antibiotics before two years of age did not seem to lead to more obesity. Neither did targeted types of antibiotics. But four or more broad spectrum courses of medications– such as amoxicillin, tetracycline, streptomycin, and ciprofloxacin– were 16 percent more likely than those who got none to become obese.
The earlier the doses, the more likely the toddler would become obese between ages 3 and 5.
The thinking is that broad spectrum antibiotics attack good bacteria, making a microbial mix which encourages obesity.
Antibiotics are often given to feed animals to prevent infections with the added benefit that the animals grow bigger, faster. The same mechanism may be at play in humans.
A surge in antibiotic use in the last few decades may be one factor in the obesity epidemic.
The researchers suggested that targeted antibiotics may be less likely to portend a future in which weight management becomes more difficult:
“Repeated exposure to broad-spectrum antibiotics at ages 0 to 23 months is associated with early childhood obesity. Because common childhood infections were the most frequent diagnoses co-occurring with broad-spectrum antibiotic prescription, narrowing antibiotic selection is potentially a modifiable risk factor for childhood obesity.”