Thursday, July 17, 2014
This is exactly what Anita Kozyrskyj and colleagues from the University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada, explored in a paper now published in the International Journal of Obesity.
For their study they linked rovincial healthcare records to clinical and survey data from a Canadian longitudinal birth cohort study, whereby antibiotic exposure during the first year of life was documented from prescription records.
Overweight and central adiposity were determined from anthropometric measurements at ages 9 (n=616) and 12 (n=431) years.
According to this analysis, infants receiving antibiotics in the first year of life were about twice as likely to be overweight later in childhood compared to those who were unexposed.
However, after adjustment for birth weight, breastfeeding, maternal overweight and other potential confounders, this association persisted in boys but not in girls. The reason for this discrepancy is not clear.
Although these findings are in line with the notion that early use of antibiotics may predispose to obesity, it is important to not that these type of studies cannot prove causality.
It may well be that other non-measured factors could explain this association (e.g. overprotective or lower SES parents may be more likely to use antibiotics in their infants – both factors are independently associated with higher rates of obesity).
Nevertheless, given the rather high rates of antibiotic exposure in infants it appears that this may well be a promising area for further research not just in the context of obesity but also for many of the other conditions that are now believed to be influenced by intestinal flora.
Azad MB, Bridgman SL, Becker AB, & Kozyrskyj AL (2014). Infant antibiotic exposure and the development of childhood overweight and central adiposity. International journal of obesity (2005) PMID: 25012772