Antacids, antibiotics may up obesity risk in childhood

Researchers say that the drugs, particularly if taken for lengthy periods, may alter gut microbes associated with weight gain.

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.

This is not the first time alterations in gut bacteria have been linked to obesity, but it does reveal the impact that early exposure to medications can have.

Being prescribed antibiotics during early childhood increases obesity risk by 26 per cent, irrespective of the type of antibiotic.

Christopher M. Stark, M.D., from the William Beaumont Army Medical Center in El Paso, Texas, and colleagues performed a cohort study to examine the correlation of antibiotic, histamine-2 receptor antagonist (H2RA), and proton pump inhibitor (PPI) prescriptions in the first two years of life with obesity.

Acid suppressants were also associated with a heightened obesity risk, although to a lesser extent, and this association strengthened for each 30-day supply prescribed.

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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.

This new study, linking antibiotic and antacid use with obesity, is extremely interesting, but does not prove causation.

Just over 14 per cent of the children became obese, of whom 11 per cent had not been prescribed any antibiotics or acid suppressants.

The survey showed there was a particular risk for boys and for children born by caesarean section, who are believed to miss out on important gut bacteria transferred through the birth canal.

Davie did stress the study has its limitations, being observational and not taking into. There was an association between antibiotic prescriptions and obesity (hazard ratio, 1.26). And potentially influential information on how much the children's mothers weighed, and whether they smoked or had other underlying conditions wasn't available.

They add: "There is an important therapeutic role for microbiota-altering medications".

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