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Antibiotics could be cause of childhood obesity

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Giving too many antibiotics to children can make them more likely to be obese in later years, a ‘biological cost’ that doctors have never realised, say researchers.

The drugs also mess with the gut, and especially the gut’s microbiome-the trillions of microbes in the intestinal tract-and nobody is sure what the long-term consequences of that may be, say researchers at the New York University’s Langone Medical Centre. In addition, the drugs also interfered with bone growth.

The average child in the US has 10 courses of antibiotics by the age of 10, and doctors have assumed there was no biological cost. But the cost could be huge; in experiments on laboratory mice, the researchers have discovered that two popular antibiotics-tylosin and amoxicillin-reprogrammed the body’s metabolism to create a predisposition for obesity. They also interfered with bone growth, which will affect the child’s height.

But they also affect the gut microbiome, and that could have unknown and long-lasting effects.

(Source: Nature Communications, 2015; 6: 7486)

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