A new study conducted by a team of researchers from the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health revealed the correlation between consumption of antibiotics and long-term weight gain among children.
According to the researchers, the duration of antibiotics exposure directly affects a person's body mass index (BMI).
For the study, the researchers monitored the health records of over 140,000 children between three and 18 years old. This includes the volume of antibiotics prescriptions each child received yearly and the changes in their BMI.
On average, the children received two prescriptions a year. This then translated to weight gain. However, according to the researchers, the gained weight was lost almost immediately after the children stopped taking the antibiotics prescribed to them.
But, for those who received more prescriptions and continued to take antibiotics for a longer period of time gained more weight than those who didn't. Furthermore, the weight they gained lasted longer as they continue with their medications.
According to lead author Brian Schwartz, taking antibiotics directly affects people's microbiome, which is a form of good bacteria responsible for maintaining a healthy immune system and proper food digestion.
He noted that the continuous use of antibiotics can then wipe out the microbiome and replace them with less-efficient bacteria. This could then lead to improper digestion and eventually weight gain.
"A single antibiotic can wipe out an entire intestinal microbiome," Schwartz said according to Time. "If antibiotics are infrequent, then the microbiome can recovoer."
"But if there are excessive antibiotics, then the impacts on the microbiome can last, and the ecology of the bacteria in the intestinal tract changes and doesn't go back to what it was before," he added.
Based on this finding, Schwartz and his team warned that long-lasting weight gain in children could increase their risk of becoming obese. This could then lead to the development of various diseases linked to this health condition.
As a precaution, Schwartz said that people should only turn to antibiotics when necessary and should not be treated as regular drug. It should also be taken sparingly to minimize its effect on the microbiome.
"We've got to totally dissuade parents from advocating antibiotics," Schwartz said according to the New York Times. "As parents we want to feel like we're doing something for our kids, but I think we're doing our kids damage."
"If your doctor says you don't need them, don't take them," he added.
The study conducted by the researchers were published on October 21 in the International Journal of Obesity.