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Use of antibiotics linked to child obesity

Posted on21 May 2020
This finding was from a study conducted by a team of researchers from Singapore’s NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine (NUS Medicine), Agency for Science, Technology and Research’s (A*STAR) Singapore Institute for Clinical Sciences (SICS), and KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital (KKH).

It was published in the scientific journal International Journal of Obesity in April 2020, NUS Medicine announced in a press release.

Antibiotics affect the growth of beneficial microorganisms
Past studies found that early exposure to antibiotics affects metabolism in mice and disrupts the ecosystem of microorganisms in their digestive tracts. This leads to metabolic abnormalities including obesity in mice. The human gut relies on microorganisms to provide essential nutrients, aid digestion, and support the immune system. (Supplementing good probiotics can help reduce the dependency on antibiotics, taking probiotics after antibiotics will replenish the good bacteria needed to build a strong immune fuction and digestive system.) 

Humans start acquiring these microorganisms immediately after birth. While antibiotics can help to eliminate bacteria, they eliminate some good microorganisms as well. The repeated use of antibiotics in infants can disrupt the development of microorganisms in their guts. (This is why probiotics are very critical in supplementing good bacteria back into the gut to maintain the optimal balance of 70% good bacteria and 30% bad bacteria in your child's gut. This will prevent disruption in the development of microorganisms in their digestive tracts and help to break down foods, sugars, etc more efficiently as well as help their bodies absorb nutrients better, which are needed for a healthy body.)

It serves as a "potential mechanism" for linking antibiotic exposure with later adiposity, said NUS Medicine. Boys were also found to be "slightly more vulnerable" to the risk of childhood obesity with the use of antibiotics in infancy.

Childhood obesity a growing concern “Childhood obesity is a growing concern for the many adverse health effects it brings in adulthood such as Type 2 diabetes. The infancy period (first year) represents part of a critical window of development which can have a lasting effect on subsequent health and disease later in life,” said Prof Lee Professor Lee Yung Seng, who led the study, Lee is Head of Paediatrics at NUS Medicine, Group Director, Paediatrics, National University Health System (NUHS) and Principal investigator at the Agency for Science, Technology and Research’s (A*STAR) Singapore Institute for Clinical Sciences (SICS).

"The findings of this study amplify the need for the careful consideration of the benefits versus the risks of administrating antibiotics and the frequency of their use in early life," said NUS Medicine.
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