Study authors based their research on data from medical records of more than 163,000 children with ages ranging from 3 to 18. Scientists were especially interested in antibiotic prescriptions, BMI and height.
Over the course of eleven years, doctors prescribed antibiotics to more than 30,000 children on at least seven occasions. Those kids, however, at the age of 15 weighed three more pounds than their peers that hadn’t used the prescription drugs.
Past studies had also shown a link between extra pounds and antibiotic use in childhood, but they were mostly based on parents’ recalls of antibiotic use. The recent study, however, relies on hard evidence taken from children’s medical records.
Dr. Brian S. Schwartz, lead author of the study and researcher at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, explained that antibiotics boosted risk of weight gain in all children, but as they grew older antibiotics had a stronger influence on their weight.
Past research had also shown that too many antibiotics lead to weight gain in farm animals. This is why meat producers add antibiotics to animals’ diets to make them grow larger faster.
Researchers weren’t able to tell a certain cause of why antibiotics are associated to childhood weight gain. They believe that the medicines may also destroy good bacteria in the human body, altering the good gut bacteria. And this may change metabolism and the way food is absorbed by the body.
In summer, a European study showed that mothers who took antibiotics while pregnant boosted their children’s risk of being overweight or obese. The study involved about 10,000 children from Denmark.
But authors of the study which has revealed frequent antibiotic use may speed up weight gain in children said that their findings don’t suggest that children should stay away from antibiotics. While some infections can prove fatal, minor problems, however, such as ear infections should not be treated with antibiotics.
There is a growing concern worldwide that antibiotic overuse may lead to dangerous mutations in harmful bacteria, making them immune to standard treatment. The recent findings may help clinicians in their fight against these bacteria, also known as superbugs, by convincing parents that antibiotics may also be detrimental to their children’s health.
Study authors recommend parents to listen to their doctors’ advice whenever they say that antibiotics are not necessary in a particular case.
Image Source: Pixabay