Childhood weight gain is becoming a serious problem in the United States, often linked to an array of unhealthy lifestyle choices including fast food and video games. Yet, recent research out of Pennsylvania is starting to discover a new trend, a trend that will definitely startle those who believe that they’ve only been doing what’s best for their children and their continued health.
Are Antibiotics the Problem?
Though there are plenty of reasons that children are likely gaining weight, researchers have most definitely discovered a link between antibiotics and that weight gain. With the increase in popularity of a sedentary lifestyle populated with video games more than baseball and fast food over home-cooked meals, society has been contributing to the weight gain of our youth, but this research has found that there is definitely much more to the subject than that, and definitely much to reconsider about the way that we protect and care for our children throughout their lives. Should they be given antibiotics if it can lead to weight gain? It’s a difficult conundrum to consider.
The Study Behind This Belief
Researchers in Pennsylvania used a large sample of children to create the basis for their findings in this area (more can be found here). What they found was that, of the 164,000 children tracked during the course of the survey, those who had received antibiotics seven or more times during their childhood were, by 15 years of age, actually 3 pounds heavier than their counterparts who had not taken as many antibiotics. Though the study focused on children after they had reached the age of 15, the research suggests that those children are actually heavier throughout their lives however and this is something that researchers have only scratched the surface on.
Is It Significant?
Many may ask whether 3 pounds of extra weight is really a significant amount. Is it even a problem that children treated with more antibiotics are gaining a little more weight than their counterparts? The problem, uncovered by
research, is that weight gain tends to accumulate. As each child is treated with antibiotics, they actually tend to gain a little more. The first time they are treated, the weight gain tends to go away. The second time, not as much of the added weight goes away. After each subsequent prescription they tend to gain just a little bit more.
As this continues, it marks a trend that doesn’t go away even without antibiotics, children that are larger, have a stronger tendency to continue gaining more weight, something that could prove to be dangerous for them throughout their future as their grow into adulthood and beyond. Though 3 pounds by age 15 may not seem like a lot of weight, as a continuing trend it is something to be monitored and it most definitely can become a problem if it continues.
What’s worse, as children continue to put on more weight and age, they can become more susceptible for diseases and health problems. Some of these include diabetes, heart disease and even cancers (for more information see the Harvard Help Guide, How Excess Weight Affects Your Health).
Though we don’t know all of the implications yet, we do know that an increase in weight from antibiotics is only the tip of the iceberg and there could, in fact, be more side effects lurking somewhere in the results. It is important to note, however, that there are other unaccounted for areas of this research and it is by no means a comprehensive indicator that children who take antibiotics will become overweight in their adult years, but it does give us something to think about a little more closely.