Antibiotics, Antacids Linked to Obesity Risk in Kids

Can antibiotics and antacids given to kids at a young age increase their risk for childhood obesity?
That’s what a new study, recently published in the British Medical Journal Gut, suggests. The research, a collaboration between the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USU) and Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, found that children who were given antibiotics and antacids in the first two years of life were more likely to develop obesity.
The researchers looked at the Military Health System records of 333,353 children born between October 2006 and September 2013.
They found that 72.4 percent were prescribed an antibiotic and 11.8 percent were given antacids before they turned two. There was a correlation between the prescription of antibiotics and those who had childhood obesity.
Those who had antacids, such as those given to control acid reflux, were also associated with increased risk for obesity over time.
Lead researcher and Air Force Lt. Col. Dr. Cade Nylund, an associate professor of pediatrics at USU, said that it seems the impact these prescriptions have on the human gut microbiome might be the cause.
“Antibiotics directly kill portions of the healthy gut microbiome; antacids alter the gut microbiome by decreasing acidity in the gut,” Nylund told Healthline. “Both antibiotics and antacids have been shown to decrease the bacterial diversity in the gut. Certain changes in bacteria have an effect on both how we digest nutrients and our metabolism.”Nylund said it was somewhat surprising to see that these kinds of medications might bear some “significant negative effects” on a child’s overall health.
“Antibiotics will always play a role in treating bacterial infections and we do not wish to discourage treating bacterial infections with antibiotics,” Nylund stressed. “However, many illnesses in children are viruses like the common cold. Viral infections do not need to be treated with antibiotics. Likewise, the vast majority of gastroesophageal reflux in early infancy is normal, it resolves in time and antacid medications have been shown to not decrease symptoms like infant fussiness.”Gail Cresci, PhD, RD, a pediatric gastroenterologist at Cleveland Clinic, echoed the idea that these medications could be impacting the gut microbiome, or the community of helpful microorganisms that live in your gut.
“Antacids take away the first line of the body’s defense against ingested pathogens by decreasing gastric acidity which can destroy many of these pathogens,” Cresci told Healthline. “Obesity is known to be associated with ‘low grade’ inflammation.