Are antibiotics making our kids fat?

Have you seen the headlines? Did you believe them? Is it actionable information?

As a red-flag alert for my class this semester, I am using this topic to show what happens to nutrition news. The International Journal of Obesity reported in August 2012 on a UK study of children, their antibiotic use and their body mass index measurements. The journal is credible – meaning it is a peer reviewed publication. To get a study published, you will need expert peers in the subject (in this case on antibiotics and childhood obesity) to agree that the study was conducted without bias and in a scientific fashion.

More than 11,000 subjects were studied which lends to the credibility of the report. What was observed was children at three different ages (less than 6 months, 6-14 months, 15-23 months) and their “exposure” to antibiotics. In other words, were kids given antibiotics in any of those time periods?

Then the longitudinal study followed these kids out for 7 years and checked their body weights compared to heights. The researchers did see an association between antibiotics given between 0-6 months and increased weight at 38 months.

Overweight kids

The headline writers were so eager to write “antibiotics cause obesity” that they missed some key elements. The researchers essentially said, we found this relationship and we think it should be studied further.

They did NOT say, if your baby needs antibiotics, don’t administer them. They did NOT say, give antibiotics and you’re child is guaranteed to be obese. They did NOT say, antibiotics at any time during childhood will make it difficult for your child to maintain a healthy weight. But how could they write an exciting headline from the facts?

So, the study, interesting as it was, suggests more study is needed. But let’s get on board for some rationale thought on childhood obesity: it is a very complex subject with multifactorial origins.

Avoid the headlines, read the studies to be well,


PS Under the FEATURES LINK there’s a recent radio interview I did on WBCL; the entire program runs an hour but my segment starts at about the 40 minute mark.



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  1. Fact Checking « Heather Schoegler says:

    […] professionals you trust. Don’t take my word for it, nutrition expert Marcia Crawford shares her opinion on the latest report that antibiotics are making our kids fat. Share with others on:MoreLike […]

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