Children who are exposed to antibiotics more often than their peers in childhood will be at greater risk of becoming overweight. It is believed that antibiotics can disrupt the balance of beneficial bacteria in the stomach.
An analysis of almost 65,000 American children has shown that 69 per cent have been exposed to antibiotics prior to age 2. They are more likely to become obese or overweight the more they are exposed to these drugs.
Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, among other institutions, suspects that antibiotics are early exposures that disrupt the balance of beneficial microbes in children’s stomachs. This disruption of the personal “microbiome,” is believed to slow down a person’s metabolism and make them more likely to gain weight.
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Dr. Martin Blaser is the nation’s leading expert on human microbiome. He argues in “Missing Microbes”, his best-selling book, that antibiotic use, particularly in children under 5, has contributed to the growth of metabolic and autoimmune disorders such as asthma, food allergies, eczema and type 1 and 2 diabetes.
Blaser stated that young children are subject to critical growth periods. His experiments have shown that obesity is caused by the loss of friendly bacteria in the early stages of development. “We must reduce antibiotic use in children. This is a key component of all our strategies. We need to start now.”
In the new study, the link between obesity and antibiotics was only true if children received broad-spectrum antibiotics. These antibiotics are meant to kill all bacteria, not just those that cause a specific illness. If they are unsure of the cause of an infection or want to quickly treat it, doctors may prefer broad-spectrum antibiotics.
Researchers wrote that narrow-spectrum antibiotics, which are recommended for first-line treatment of common childhood infections, were not associated with obesity after multiple exposures.
Researchers discovered that antibiotic use wasn’t the only risk factor in childhood obesity. Other risk factors include being a male, living in an urban location, having public-funded health insurance, being Hispanic, being diagnosed as suffering from asthma or wheezing and being prescribed steroid medication.
Antibiotics and Patient Demand Fuel Drug Resistance
Besides wiping out beneficial bacteria in the gut, the overuse of antibiotics in hospitals and doctors’ offices is also leading to a rise in antibiotic-resistant bacteria like methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).
Experts believe that as high as 50% of the antibiotic prescriptions in America each year are unnecessary. Each time a bacterium comes in contact with an antibiotic, it has another chance of figuring out how to defeat it.