The use of antibiotics during infancy is a significant risk factor for becoming overweight in later years. Since antibiotics requite a physician’s prescription, they are considered a physician-modifiable risk factor. Due to their wide spectrum action, not only do they kill the harmful bacteria but they also alter the composition of the child’s developing gut microbiome, which plays a significant role in the maintenance of healthy weight.
Of the 5000 child participants involved in the study, 72% received an antibiotic treatment before turning 4. Fifty three percent of these were under 12 months. The study found that children received an average of 3.7 doses of antibiotics before the age of 4, with each dose increasing their likelihood of becoming overweight by 3%. Infants undergoing antibiotic treatment before reaching 12 months of age showed the most severe consequences, with a 20% increased risk of becoming overweight at an older age than their untreated peers.
More research is needed to better understand the degree to which various antibiotics act as risk factors for children’s overweight and obesity.