Prescribing Antibiotics to Infants Increases Childhood Obesity Risk

Pharmacy Times, October 2016 Diabetes, Volume 82, Issue 10

The use of antibiotics before 2 years of age has been linked to an increased risk of early childhood obesity.

The use of antibiotics before 2 years of age has been linked to an increased risk of early childhood obesity, suggest the results of a recent study.

The study, published in Gastroenterology, examined the relationship between antibiotic exposures before 2 years of age and obesity at 4 years of age in a large group of British children. The researchers found that children who were treated with antibiotics in infancy had a 25% higher risk of developing obesity by age 4 than those who were not given antibiotics. This association was particularly strong in children who received 3 or more antibiotic courses.

“Antibiotics have been used to promote weight gain in livestock for several decades, and our research confirms that antibiotics have the same effect in humans,” said study author Frank Irving Scott, MD, MSCE, in a press release. “Our results do not imply that antibiotics should not be used when necessary, but rather encourage both physicians and parents to think twice about antibiotic usage in infants in the absence of well-established indications.”

The study authors noted that further research is required to determine whether the association between antibiotics and obesity persists into adolescence and young adulthood, as well as to assess whether specific antibiotics are more strongly linked to obesity than others.

Despite the increased risk of antibiotic resistance and other complications, more than 10 million antibiotic prescriptions are written for children without a clear indication each year, according to the study authors.