If your child was given antibiotics or antacids at a young age, they may face a higher risk of obesity, according to a recent study.
The researchers found antibiotic use before the age of two was linked to a 26% higher chance of obesity during childhood. And that number rose even higher, every time the child was exposed to additional antibiotics. And it didn’t matter which class of antibiotic was prescribed. Now antacids also raised the risk of obesity, but the connection was not as strong. However, each 30-day supply upped the risk even more.
How could antibiotics and antacids possibly impact a child’s risk of obesity?
Antibiotics are used to treat bacterial infections. So they kill off bacteria, both good and bad. So it could be that antibiotics disrupt a person’s gut microbiome, which includes bacteria and all the other tiny microscopic organisms in our gut. And micro-organisms help us digest foods.
When it comes to antacids, these medications can be given to babies suffering from stomach reflux. And antacids can kill bacteria or, help certain bacteria move from other parts of the body into the intestine. And this then crowds out other important gut species. So it’s possible that disruptions to our gut, and how the body digests and absorbs nutrients could potentially influence weight gain.
Should parents avoid antibiotics or antacids during their child’s first two years of life?
First of all, this recent study was observational, so the findings only indicate an association, not an actual cause. But we’re facing two critical public health challenges: antibiotic resistance and an obesity epidemic. So here are my prescriptions:
- Only use antibiotics when necessary. Babies typically don’t need them for fevers and certainly not for the common cold as those are caused by viruses.
- If a baby has acid reflux, a mother can try changing her diet if she’s breastfeeding or by switching formula. Most young children grow out of this by the time they’re 12 to 18 months old.
- Be sure to offer children plenty of fruits and vegetables, and less processed or junk foods. Especially when they are young as this may help them learn to like vegetables as they grow.
- Children aged 6 and up get an hour of exercise a day, and preschoolers can get up to 3 hours daily. Lack of exercise is one of the factors behind obesity.
Eating healthily and exercising regularly will positively directly impact a child’s health over their lifetime.