Researchers are exploring a new culprit in the ever-growing childhood obesity epidemic: rampant use of antibiotic drugs to treat minor childhood illness.
For decades, farmers have been doping commercial livestock with antibiotics because the drugs increase, by about 15 percent, the weight of cattle, pigs and chickens.
A new study from the International Journal of Obesity suggests that treating infants with antibiotics during the first several months of their lives could have the same fattening effects. Babies that were given antibiotics within the first six months of life were more likely to be overweight as toddlers than those not exposed to the drugs. The study couldn’t prove beyond the shadow of doubt, however, that antibiotics were the only cause of weight gain.
A similar study examined the medical records of children born in the U.K. in the early 1990s and also found that infants given antibiotics within the first six months of life were more likely to be overweight or obese as toddlers when compared to babies not exposed to the drugs.
Other studies on the effects of antibiotics on the gut microbes of lab mice might explain the reason behind the weight gain. Researchers found that in the mice, antibiotics changed the makeup of gut bacteria that are instrumental in helping the body break down food and store proper amounts of fat.