HealthDay News — Children aged less than two years who are given broad-spectrum antibiotics may face a slightly higher risk of becoming obese during childhood, results of a study published in JAMA Pediatrics indicate.

“Infancy may be a critical period when environmental factors exert a lasting effect on the risk for obesity; identifying modifiable factors may help to reduce this risk,” noted Charles Bailey, MD, of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, and colleagues.

To examine the impact of antibiotics prescribed in infancy (ages 0-23 months) on obesity in early childhood (ages 24-59 months), the investigators studied the health records of nearly 65,000 children who were seen at clinics from 2001 through 2013. The children were followed from birth to age 5 years. The researchers tracked the children’s height and weight, and classified them as normal weight, overweight, or obese.

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Nearly 70% of the children were given antibiotics before age 2 years. On average, the study participants had 2.3 episodes of antibiotic use. Children who had four or more exposures to antibiotics were 11% more likely to be obese compared with children who did not have exposure to antibiotics.

“Because common childhood infections were the most frequent diagnoses co-occurring with broad-spectrum antibiotic prescription, narrowing antibiotic selection is potentially a modifiable risk factor for childhood obesity,” concluded the study authors.


  1. Baily C et al. Pediatrics. 2014; doi: 10.1001/jamapediatrics.2014.1539