Children Who Take Antibiotics Gain Weight Faster Than Kids Who Don’t

A new study has found that children who receive antibiotics throughout the course of their childhoods gain weight significantly faster than those who do not. The new study was published online in the according to a study International Journal of Obesity. The findings suggest that antibiotics may have a compounding effect throughout childhood on body mass index (BMI). “Your BMI may be forever altered by the antibiotics you take as a child,” said Brian S. Schwartz, MD, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, Maryland. “Our data suggest that every time we give an antibiotic to kids they gain weight faster over time.” For the study, the researchers analysed Geisinger Health System’s electronic health records on 163,820 children aged 3 to 18 years from January 2001 to February 2012. They examined body weight and height and antibiotic use in the previous year as well as any earlier years for which Geisinger had records for the children. At age 15, children who had taken antibiotics 7 or more times during childhood weighed about 1.4 kg (3 lbs) more than those who received no antibiotics, they found. Approximately 21% of the kids in the study, or almost 30,000 children, had received 7 or more prescriptions during childhood. Dr. Schwartz said that the weight gain among those frequently prescribed antibiotics is likely an underestimate since the children did not stay with Geisinger throughout childhood so their lifetime antibiotic histories, including antibiotic use outside the health system, would not have been recorded and because the effect of certain antibiotic types was even stronger than the overall average. “While the magnitude of the weight increase attributable to antibiotics may be modest by the end of childhood, our finding that the effects are cumulative raises the possibility that these effects continue and are compounded into adulthood,” he said. Dr. Schwartz said he thinks that physicians are becoming more judicious in their antibiotic prescribing, but it can be a difficult task. Often parents demand antibiotics for apparent cold viruses and other ailments that will not be helped by them. There have long been concerns that excessive antibiotic use is leading to bacterial strains that are becoming resistant to these potentially lifesaving drugs. But this study suggests that antibiotics can have long-term effects in individual children, he says. “Systematic antibiotics should be avoided except when strongly indicated,” said Dr. Schwartz. “From everything we are learning, it is more important than ever for physicians to be the gatekeepers and keep their young patients from getting drugs that not only won’t help them but may hurt them in the long run.”

DG News, 21 October 2015 ; ;