Antibiotics and acid suppressants in early childhood linked to obesity, study shows

Henrietta Strickland
November 2, 2018

The composition of gut bacteria (the microbiome) has been linked to various aspects of human health, including obesity.

Researchers examined data from more than 333,000 infants (collected between 2006-2013) to assess whether antibiotics, as well as histamine-2 receptor antagonist (H2RA) and proton pump inhibitor (PPI) could have an affect.

The study looked at over 330,000 infants in the U.S. over the first two years of their lives and found that just over 14% of children became obese, and only 11% of those had not been prescribed antibiotics or acid suppressants.

The research focused on medicines prescribed to these youngsters during the first two years of their lives.

Being prescribed antibiotics during early childhood increases obesity risk by 26 per cent, irrespective of the type of antibiotic.

The survey showed there was a particular risk for boys and for children born by caesarean section, who are believed to miss out on important gut bacteria transferred through the birth canal.

Nearly three-quarters (72.4%) had been prescribed an antibiotic, while 39,488 (11.8%) had been prescribed an H2RA and 11,089 (3.3%) a PPI.

Researchers also calculated that youngsters were 26% more likely to be diagnosed with childhood obesity if they had been prescribed an antibiotic.

Antibiotics and acid suppressant medications can alter the type and number of bacteria present in the gut.

But after taking account of potentially influential factors, a prescription for antibiotics or acid suppressants was associated with a heightened risk of obesity by the age of 3-the average age at which obesity was first identified in these children.

Although the largest study of its kind, it is nevertheless observational, and as such, can't establish cause.

He added: 'That said, childhood obesity levels in the United Kingdom are at crisis point with one in three children overweight or obese by the time they leave primary school'.

"We therefore need to acknowledge these findings and would welcome further review".

'We have to be careful about medications which might risk obesity because people who are obese in childhood typically increase their weight in adulthood, putting them in danger of high blood pressure, diabetes and heart problems'.

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