Researchers suggest that the likelihood of obesity increased drastically with early exposure to antibiotics. A cohort study published in JAMA Network Open found that children repeatedly exposed to antibiotics had a significantly higher body mass index (BMI) than those not exposed.
The study recruited 6853 children antenatally during 2009 to 2010; at the 54-month follow-up, 93% of the children had their weight and height measured.
Community pharmacy antibiotic dispensing data were obtained from the New Zealand Pharmaceutical Collection database for children whose parents consented to external data linkage. Data analysis took place from 2017 to 2018.
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The measures taken included the World Health Organization’s BMI-for-age z scores and the International Obesity Task Force overweight and obesity cutoff points that pass through adult BMI values of 25 and 30.
Results found that out of the 5128 singletons in the study, 95% had an antibiotic prescription by 48 months of age, and 9% had obesity at 54 months of age. The adjusted mean BMI-for-age z scores increased significantly with the number of antibiotic dispensings, for 4 to 6, 7 to 9, and more than 9 dispensings. In addition, receiving more than 9 dispensings was associated with greater likelihood of obesity compared with no exposure.
The study authors suggest future research could examine whether interventions such as antibiotic stewardship programs also reduce early childhood obesity, since these programs are designed to reduce overprescribing of antibiotics.
A version of this article was originally published by Contemporary Clinic. The full article can be viewed at

Chelimo C, Camargo CA, Morton SMB, Grant CC. Association of Repeated Antibiotic Exposure Up to Age 4 Years With Body Mass at Age 4.5 Years. JAMA Netw Open. 2020;3(1):e1917577. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2019.17577.