Antibiotics and acid suppressants in early childhood linked to obesity, says study

Antibiotics and acid suppressants in early childhood linked to obesity, says study

A prescription for antibiotics was associated with a 26 per cent heightened risk of obesity, according to the findings published online by the journal Gut.

These drugs, particularly if taken for lengthy periods, may alter gut microbes that have been associated with weight gain, explain the researchers.

Antibiotics and acid suppressant medications can alter the type and number of bacteria present in the gut.

Of the total group, 72.5 per cent were prescribed antibiotics, 12 per cent were prescribed H2RA acid suppressants and 3 per cent were prescribed PPI gastric protector medication. Some 5868 children were prescribed all three types of drug.

During the follow-up, 46,993 (14.1%) children became obese, of whom 9,628 had not been prescribed any antibiotics or acid suppressants.

The study found that the longer the children took the drugs and the more classes of antibiotics they had taken, the greater the risk of obesity was.

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Boys, those born after a Caesarean section, and those whose parents were below officer rank were more likely to become obese.

'We have to be careful about medications which might risk obesity because people who are obese in childhood typically increase their weight in adulthood, putting them in danger of high blood pressure, diabetes and heart problems'.

They found that youngsters taking antibiotics and, to a lesser extent, drugs to curb excess stomach acid, may be at heightened risk of becoming unhealthily overweight.

Because the study is observational it can not establish cause but the authors wrote: "We found that outpatient prescriptions for antibiotics and acid-suppressing medications within the first two years of life are associated with the development of early childhood obesity".

Researchers say there is "mounting evidence of unanticipated consequences" for the particular antibiotics and the antacids they studied, namely proton pump inhibitors (PPI) and histamine 2 receptor antagonists (H2RA).

The researchers concluded that while these medications play an essential therapeutic role, it's important to weigh their short-term benefits against the long-term risks.

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