This is something parents will not want to hear. Researchers have found a link between antibiotic use in young children and the rise of childhood obesity. Using electronic health records of 65,000 children from 2001 through 2013, they found that 69 percent were exposed to antibiotics before the age of two.
Working the data further out, researchers at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia found that children under the age of five had received antibiotics 2.3 times each. The working theory is that this early exposure to antibiotics disrupts the balance of good bacteria in a child’s gut. This in turn is thought to slow metabolism in the body, making weight gain likely.
The target of this study was the use of broad-spectrum antibiotics. Narrow spectrum and the obesity link could not be established. Broad-spectrum are normally given when a physician isn’t sure what’s causing the infection and want to treat the patient quickly.
Researchers noted the link in their commentary. “Narrow spectrum antibiotics, recommended as first-line treatment for common childhood infections, are not associated with obesity even after multiple exposures. This observation suggests a potentially modifiable risk factor for childhood obesity, given the relatively high use of broad-spectrum drugs.”
Obesity isn’t the only issue with overusing antibiotics. The rise of MRSA has been directly linked to the overprescribing of antibiotics in hospitals and doctors’ offices. We have all heard the news of superbugs popping up that are antibiotic-resistant. The Federal government has become involved, imploring drug companies to make new antibiotics.
Up to fifty percent of antibiotic prescriptions written in the United States are unnecessary. This could be for things like a viral infection, which an antibiotic cannot target. It’s a case of the consumer demanding something being done, and doctors obliging.
Antibiotic use was not the only obesity risk factor found in the study. If the kids had asthma and were given steroid medications, lived in an urban setting, had public health insurance or were of Hispanic descent, they were at a greater risk for developing childhood obesity.
Antibiotic overuse has been pointed out by many doctors as leading to an increased risk of metabolic and autoimmune diseases. These include everything from asthma to type 1 and type 2 diabetes.