Early Antibiotic Use Linked to Childhood Obesity

Before you accept antibiotics for your infant, you may want to consider the results of a study published in the International Journal of Obesity showing a correlation between antibiotic exposure before 6 months and an increased body mass later in childhood, between 10 months and 3 years of age.

The lead researcher on the study told ABC News that he suspects a disruption of the healthy bacteria that normally live in our intestines may lead to a temporary over-absorption of calories. The researchers cautioned against reading too much into the study, and noted that the effects were “modest” at the individual level. They’re interested in what this might mean for how we regard the childhood obesity epidemic.

For individual parents, though, these headlines connecting antibiotic use to even modest or temporary increases in weight should serve another purpose by reminding us of what we already know: no one benefits from the overuse of antibiotics. It’s tempting to respond to a screaming infant with red ears and fever with a quick treatment in the hope of defeating an ear infection, and some pediatricians will still ask parents if they’d like a prescription.

We know we should say no. We know the risks of antibiotic resistance, and that antibiotics don’t help in the case of a viral infection. But it’s so easy (can you tell I’ve been there?) to secretly think antibiotics might help, and won’t hurt. This link between antibiotics and an unexpected result is another small reminder not to go down that road.


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