antibiotics links to childhood obesity

Prevention of antibiotic resistance is not the only reason to restrict the use of antibiotics - they have now been linked to obesity.  Childhood obesity has doubled over the past thirty years and obesity in adolescents has quadrupled. A new study published in the JAMA pediatric journal reveals prescription of antibiotics in the first two years of life can be linked to children developing early childhood obesity.  In the study, the data from over sixty four thousand children was assessed and details of any antibiotics that were prescribed from birth to 23 months of age recorded.  Statistical analysis showed that there was a higher rate of obesity in babies that had been given repeated doses of broad spectrum antibiotics than children that had not.  Narrow spectrum antibiotics did not have the same effect.
Yet another piece of evidence supporting an AGFLO  theory:

 Antibiotic ⇒ Gut Flora imbalance ⇒ Obesity

Antibiotics are a major cause of gut dysbiosis in children. From birth through to approximately 3 years of age, the intestinal gut flora in infants is being created, developed and changed.  Gut flora affects the physical structure of the gut too, as it stimulates the creation of the villi and triggers the lymphoid tissue of the gut to mature.  Antibiotic use in the early years is now known to change the balance of flora in the gut, it reduces diversity and allows some species to become more dominant at the expense of others. This imbalance and lack of diversity in the early years of life has been linked to many health problems including asthma, inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, allergies and diabetes.

Effects of antibiotics on gut flora

Studies have shown that the use of antibiotics ampicillin and gentamicin in children result in higher levels of Proteobacteria, Actinobacteria and Lactobacillus.  Vancomycin has been shown to lead to an increase in Firmicutes species whereas Streptomycin resulted in an increase in Bacteroidetes in a study that investigated the effects of antibiotics on inflammatory lung diseases.  Amoxicillin has been shown to cause an increase in Eschericia and Shigella species. Finally, a clinical study showed that vancomycin treatment led to an increase in bile acid and glucose metabolism and was related to the development of obesity.

The obese gut and the normal gut

It is generally accepted that people who suffer from obesity have a  gut flora 'type' that is different to that of non-obese people. The most recent study we found was carried out in Taiwan and found that obese people had increased Bacteroides and Prevotella levels and reduced Escherichia levels compared to those with a healthy Body Mass Index. Other studies have shown that in obese people Bacteriodetes levels are reduced and Firmicutes species are increased.

There is now clear evidence that development of a healthy gut flora from the first days of life is vital for good health in later years. Avoiding use of  antibiotics as much as possible is one of the most important steps to creating a healthy gut in children.


Bailey et al. Association of antibiotics in infancy with early childhood obesity. Jama Pediatr. Sept 2014.

Arrieta et al. The intestinal microbiome in early life: health and disease. Front Immunol. Sept 2014.

Dubourg et al. Culturomics and pyrosequencing evidence of the reduction in gut microbiota diversity in patients with broad-spectrum antibiotics. Int J antimicrob Agents Aug 2014.

Chiu et al. Systematic analysis of the Association between Gut Flora and Obesity through High-throughput Sequencing and Bioinformatics Approaches. Biomed Res Int. Aug 2014.



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