A newly published and extensive study in the International Journal of Obesity found that children who regularly take antibiotics during childhood gained weight more quickly than children who do not. The researchers looked at the medical records of more than 160,000 children between the ages of three and 18 and found that 15 year-olds who had taken antibiotics seven or more times during childhood weighed about three pounds more than those who had never taken antibiotics. Although no one disputes the power and necessity of antibiotic use in certain situations, overprescribing and overuse of these powerful drugs has lately been linked in several studies to weight gain and metabolic issues as well as allergies, asthma, and certain autoimmune diseases.
Antibiotics, which are often given in livestock feed since they have been shown to promote weight gain in animals, create an imbalance in the gut since they work by doing a bacterial sweep of the gut. Cleaning out and killing off the “bad” bacteria helps to get kids healthy, but the gut’s “good” bacteria is wiped out in the process and can take weeks or months to replenish. Using antibiotics repeatedly can actually permanently change the gut microbiome, which in turn has an effect on the way that food is digested, nutrients are absorbed, and calories are absorbed, likely leading to — you guessed it — weight gain.
Previous studies have linked antibiotic use with weight gain early in childhood; this study suggests that the effect of antibiotics on weight continues throughout the later years of childhood, and into adulthood as well. The study’s authors stress that while taking antibiotics is medically necessary for certain illnesses, don’t seek them out as a commonly used antidote for all your child’s ailments. Always check with your doctor about when to use antibiotics and mention your concern about overuse of them; perhaps a healthier alternative can be provided. In the meantime, focus on nourishing, gut bacteria-promoting foods (especially after taking a necessary course of antibiotics).
via CBS News