Are Antibiotics Causing Obese Babies?

by Dr. David Williams
Filed Under: Immune Health, Digestive Health
Last Reviewed 02/06/2014

I make no secret of the fact that I find bacterial balance in the gut to be one of the most important aspects of health. If your microflora are off, it affects everything from your digestion to your immunity.

Now, research has shown that antibiotic use--which upsets microfloral balance by killing off all the bad AND good bugs in your gut--can have long-lasting effects if used in young babies.

Researchers evaluated the use of antibiotics in 11,532 children born between 1991 and 1992. Almost 30% of the infants were given antibiotics sometime during the first six months of their life. The babies who were treated with antibiotics between birth to five months weighed more those not given antibiotics. The weight difference wasn’t that dramatic at first, but by 38 months, those in the antibiotic group had a 22% greater likelihood of being overweight.

The timing of the antibiotic use seemed to make a huge difference. If the antibiotics were given during the first five months, the children tended to be overweight or even obese as toddlers. When exposed to antibiotics at 6 to 14 months of age, children didn’t have a higher body mass later in childhood. And, although children exposed from the ages of 15 to 23 months had a slightly higher body mass index by age seven, it didn’t increase their likelihood of later being overweight or obese. 

Antibiotics are known as “growth promoters.” With antibiotic use, animals (in particular, cattle) gain more weight more quickly on less food. Interestingly, we’re just now “discovering” that doing the same thing to our babies results in the same thing. (To that, I say "duh!")

We’re killing the natural bacterial flora in the human body that influences how we breakdown and absorb various nutrients that help keep us lean and healthy. Doing it at such a critical period of development, such as early childhood, has long-lasting effects.  Don’t forget gut microbes don’t just aid in the metabolism of food, they also synthesize vitamins and help regulate our entire immune system.

I recommend giving probiotics to babies and children. Simply mix the recommended amount on that particular probiotic into formula, breastmilk, cow's milk (for older kids), or yogurt.  

Now it's your turn: What do you think of this study? And do you use probiotics regularly?

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