Early antibiotic exposure linked to weight gain in children

Washington: A recent study has found that antibiotics may promote weight gain in young children.

The findings appear in the journal Pediatrics.

Researchers examined the relationship between antibiotic use among children less than two years old and their weight at around five years of age, analysing factors such as: diagnosis of chronic conditions, number of antibiotic prescriptions given to children, and the specific types of antibiotics given.

Results demonstrate that the effect of antibiotic use in early childhood and weight around age 5 was small — less than a pound difference in weight for children of average height and weight receiving four or more courses of antibiotics, compared to children who received none.

“While this small difference in weight might not be important for individual decisions regarding antibiotic prescribing by doctors and parents, these data may serve, in a small way, to further encourage efforts to decrease antibiotic us,” said lead author Jason Block of Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute and Harvard Medical School.

Antibiotic overuse has been a major population health concern, primarily due to the dangers of increasing antibiotic resistance but, recently, interest in antibiotics’ effect on weight has emerged. Antibiotics disrupt the natural balance of intestinal bacteria or gut microbiome.

Because the microbiome has important effects on the body’s metabolism and how food is digested, researchers have hypothesized that changes in weight might occur with microbiome disruptions. This issue is important for parents and their doctors, who often must decide whether children should receive antibiotics.