Young children more likely to be obese if given antibiotics as babies, study shows

Wednesday, August 29, 2012 by: J. D. Heyes
Tags: children, antibiotics, obesity

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(NaturalNews) Antibiotics took another hit recently as researchers in Great Britain concluded following a massive study that young children tend to be fatter if they were given antibiotics as babies.

Researchers examined a total of 11,532 infants born in Avon, U.K, from 1991-1992 who were exposed to antibiotics during three early lifetime periods ranging from fewer than six months old, 6-14 months and 15-23 months. Indices of body mass were taken at five time points - six weeks, 10 months, 20 months, 38 months and seven years).

"Antibiotic exposure during the earliest time window (fewer than six months old) was consistently associated with increased body mass," the study found, the results of which were published in the International Journal of Obesity. "Exposure from 6 to 14 months showed no association with body mass, while exposure from 15 to 23 months was significantly associated with increased BMI (body mass index)" at seven years old. "Exposures to non-antibiotic medications were not associated with body mass."

Findings could lead to gains in additional research areas

"Exposure to antibiotics during the first six months of life is associated with consistent increases in body mass from 10 to 38 months," while "exposure later in infancy (6-14 months, 15-23 months) are not consistently associated with increased body mass," the study concluded. After 38 months, children were 22 percent more likely to be overweight.

"Although effects of early exposures are modest at the individual level, they could have substantial consequences for population health. Given the prevalence of antibiotic exposures in infants, and in light of the growing concerns about childhood obesity, further studies are needed to isolate effects and define life-course implications for body mass and cardiovascular risks," researchers said.

The team opined that one cause could be that the drugs are affecting bacteria in the gut, which eventually leads to weight gain, but they affirm that more research is needed to establish a link.

"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," Dr. Leonardo Trasande, of New York University School of Medicine, one of the researchers, told the BBC.

"We typically consider obesity an epidemic grounded in unhealthy diet and exercise, yet increasingly, studies suggest it's more complicated," he added.

Microbiologist, Dr. Cormac Gahan, from University College Cork, added that there was a lot of research interest in the area, "but it is very early stages for this type of work."

Not popular, but effective

Bacteria living on a human by far outnumber the body's own cells, so there is a rising interest in how this "microbiome" may affect human health. In extreme circumstances, the BBC said, there are instances of doctors transplanting fecal matter in order to introduce so-called "healthy" bacteria into the gut to treat infections when other methods have failed.

Dr. Alisdair MacConnachie, of Gartnavel General Hospital in Glasgow, has used the procedure to successfully treat Clostridium difficle infection, but says it should only be utilized as a last resort. Since 2003, he has performed 20 such operations.

"Ultimately, all the patients I've treated, bar one, has got rid of their C. difficile," he said.

"My personal view is that this technique is there for patients who have tried all the traditional treatments," he continued. "If a patient doesn't respond to that and still gets recurrent C. difficile, then they're in real trouble and there isn't really any other technique or any other treatment that has the proven efficacy that fecal transplant does."

He admits the procedure might turn your stomach and that's likely why more physicians aren't using it - because he doubts it would be very popular among patients.


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