By Elizabeth Barker
Children given antibiotics in the first few months of life may be more likely to pack excess pounds by the time they reach age 3. That’s the finding of a recent study from the New York University School of Medicine, which sized up the use of antibiotics among more than 11,500 children.
In their research, the study’s authors determined that children treated with antibiotics when they were five months old or younger had a 22 percent greater chance of being overweight at 38 months of age (compared to kids who weren’t given antibiotics in that same time period). On the other hand, children exposed to antibiotics from ages six months to 14 months didn’t have a significantly higher body mass index than those who weren’t treated with antibiotics at that age.
It’s too soon to tell how early-life antibiotic use might set children up for being overweight. Still, the study’s authors theorize that antibiotics could mess with biochemistry in babies. “We typically consider obesity an epidemic grounded in unhealthy diet and exercise, yet increasingly, studies suggest it’s more complicated,” explains lead author Leonardo Trasande, M.D. “Microbes in our intestines may play critical roles in how we absorb calories, and exposure to antibiotics, especially early in life, may kill off healthy bacteria that influence how we absorb nutrients into our bodies, and would otherwise keep us lean.”
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