A recent meta-analysis suggests that exposure to antibiotics during early life significantly increases the risk for weight gain and obesity in childhood. The findings were published in the Journal of Pediatric Endocrinology & Metabolism.
Researchers conducted a meta-analysis of 19 studies (n=671,681) identified through a literature search on the PubMed, Embase, Scopus, Web of Science, ProQuest, Cochrane, Ovid and Google Scholar databases.
The findings showed that children exposed to antibiotics in early life had an 8 per cent greater odds of gaining weight during the follow-up period compared with non-exposed children (OR, 1.08; 95% CI, 1.05-1.11). A subgroup analysis revealed that the odds of weight gain during the first 4 years of life in antibiotic-exposed children increased by as much as 19 per cent. Another subgroup analysis showed that the odds of weight gain in children exposed to antibiotics before 6 months of age increased by as much as 11 per cent.
According to the authors, alteration of intestinal microbiota and mitochondrial dysfunction or loss influenced by antibiotics may be some of the plausible underlying mechanisms which predispose individuals to weight gain.
The authors said: "Such effects on growth may have played a role in the childhood obesity epidemic worldwide. These results highlight the importance of critical use of antibiotics in early infancy and avoiding antibiotic exposure when possible."