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The Overuse of Antibiotics and Its Role in Child Obesity


The issue of childhood obesity remains one of the top reasons for concern in the United States, as well as in the global setting. Childhood obesity has drastic effects on the health status of patients. Apart from leading to an array of complications and chronic diseases and disorders among children, the issue under analysis also triggers chronic issues in young patients, thus, causing a rapid drop in the quality of the patients’ lives. Therefore, the problem must be addressed.

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It is believed that excessive use of antibiotics serves as the foil for gaining extra weight at a comparatively early stage of the child’s development. As a result, the obesity issue becomes chronic as the child grows. Thus, there is a strong need to resolve the problem until it has grown out of proportions.

It should be noted that the refusal from using antibiotics, though being ostensibly the only sensible decision in the case in point, has a significant problem. While being based on a rather legitimate argument, it omits the fact that there is currently no good substitute for antibiotics as the key tool for managing bacteria-related diseases. It could be argued that an alternative approach to addressing the bacteria-related diseases and disorders can be designed, yet it is bound to be a time- and money-consuming process that will deliver rather dubious results, which would, later on, have to be tested multiple times.


Childhood obesity is among the top priorities on the modern healthcare agenda according to the latest studies on the subject matter. Although often taken for granted, the issue is much more complicated than it might seem at first glance. Obesity is known for triggering a variety of complications, starting with high blood pressure and up to even more drastic effects such as coronary heart disease, a stroke, and even type II diabetes (Lau et al. 2015). Herein lies the need to prevent the issue from occurring and manage the problem at the earliest stages of its development.

Indeed, according to the recent reports by CDC, the U.S. population has witnessed a twofold increase in childhood obesity rates over the past 30 years (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2016), which is a tremendous problem and a troubling tendency. Furthermore, the report states that the percentage of American children from 6 to 11 that have been diagnosed with an obesity problem has gone from 7% to 12% in approximately 30 years (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2016).

The identified statistics are a reason for a serious concern given the implications of obesity development among children. The fact that at least 1/3 of the total number of children in the United States had an obesity problem in 2012 shows that there is an urgent need to take measures to handle the problem.

The phenomenon of obesity has not been linked to the consumption of antibiotics up until recently. The medicine has been in use for quite a while due to its properties; according to the existing definition, antibiotics are the chemical compounds that are used to treat bacterial infections. Although consistent consumption of antibiotics also has its adverse effects, including pneumonia and typhus (Song et al. 2015), the medicine, in general, is deemed as one of the primary methods of managing bacterial infections and the related diseases.

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However, recent studies point to the fact that, despite their positive qualities and the opportunities that they provide in fighting numerous diseases, antibiotics may have a direct effect on the development of obesity issues in children.

Therefore, the research carried out currently by scholars studying the subject matter tends to focus on identifying the exact links between the development of obesity in children and the changes that antibiotics prompt in the patient’s body. Furthermore, contemporary analysis of the issue also implies suggesting possible avenues for avoiding the obesity issue, at the same time retaining antibiotics as an essential treatment of bacterial infections. Age-related restrictions are among the most common suggestions so far, yet deeper insight into the dilemma might help stumble upon a more satisfying solution to the problem. Specifically, the search for substitutes for antibiotics can be deemed as one of the primary courses for the current analysis to develop in.

The drastic effect that antibiotics supposedly have on the changes in the weight and bone size in children calls for a detailed overview of the latest literature on the topic. By carrying out a scrupulous overview of the subject matter, one is likely to synthesize the available information so that the most efficient solutions could be located and evaluated accordingly. As a result, the directions for the following improvement of the current practices and the management of the conflict can be found.


Evidence of Antibiotics Being the Trigger of Obesity in Young Children

Researchers have found that by administering antibiotic treatment to children perinatally or at the earliest stages of their life inevitably caused consistent weight gain. It should be admitted, though, that most of the studies carried out on the subject matter are deemed as lacking credibility due to the numerous limitations that they implied, such as a small sample size, the restriction of the target audience to a particular age (e.g., some of the studies restricted the choice of the participants by allowing only the analysis of infants’ data), etc. as a result, the outcomes of these analyses might be seen as somewhat lacking credibility.

Nevertheless, the evidence of the connections between the obesity development and the consumption of antibiotics has been mounting for quite a while, leading to the inevitable realization of the fact that consistent use of the identified drug will eventually lead to chronic obesity issues in the patient. Furthermore, active use of the drug at the earliest stages of the patient’s physical development is likely to have an even more adverse and irreversible effect.

Finally, the fact that male patients are more prone to the disorder than the female ones needs to be mentioned among the crucial characteristics of the phenomenon: “adjusted BMI-for-age z-score difference in boys 0.13 standard deviation (S.D.), 95% CI 0.07–0.19, P < 0.001, and in girls 0.07 S.D., 95% CI 0.01–0.13, P < 0.05]” (Principi and Esposito 2016).

Factors Causing the Development of Obesity After the Usage of Antibiotics

Although the actual mechanism of acquiring and developing the problems related to being overweight as a result of abusing antibiotics has not been discovered yet, there are a plethora of assumptions that may shed some light on the issue. The early hypotheses regarding the mechanism of obesity development suggested that the effects that antibiotics have on the gut microbiota inevitably trigger a rapid weight gain in patients.

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Indeed, according to the results of recent research, the changes that an individual undergoes when exposed to an excessive amount of antibiotics, including resistance to insulin, a rise in the circulating leptin and glucose angiopoietin-like 4, as well as the development of adipocyte hypertrophy (Fuster et al. 2015) lead directly to the further enhancement of the weight gain process (Liu et al. 2015). In other words, studies show that the consumption of the identified medicine increases the pace of the patient’s physical development, including a growth spurt and the increasingly fast gain of extra weight.

Microbiota Modification as the Possible Cause of Obesity Development in Young Children

The changes that the patient experiences when consuming antibiotics are also traceable on the cellular level. Particularly, the number of host energy sources in the patient’s body increases significantly, whereas the appetite may go out of the patient’s control. As a result, an unceasing process of energy acquisition commences. The identified processes are typically attributed to the fermentation of the bacteria that are among the key agent of the procedure.

However, as far as the actual triggers of the obesity development are concerned, the fact that the microbiota in the patient’s body is forced to process an excessive amount of polysaccharides so that they could be turned into monosaccharides and short-chain fatty acids, or SCFA, needs to be listed among the crucial factors that affect the development of obesity in young children that are exposed to the impact of antibiotics. As stressed above, the microbiota is currently considered the primary agent of change from the standard weight to the overweight state of being in young patients that are forced to undergo antibiotics-based treatment.

Managing the Issue: The Tools That May Help Address the Problem

The dilemma regarding the choice between the efficient treatment of diseases caused by bacteria and the successful avoidance of obesity development in patients at a strikingly young age is complicated and complex. Some researchers presume that the subject matter can be handled by considering the use of tools such as the Body Mass Index (BMI) calculation. Particularly, the device can be used to detect the possible issues and address them at the earliest stages of their development, as a recent study claims (Schwartz et al. 2015).

Indeed, according to the outcomes of the research, the BMI of the higher orders was strongly associated with the phenomenon known as the processive weight gain; as a result, the prerequisites for designing the strategy that could be used to make forecasts regarding the patients’ wellbeing could be designed successfully.

It should be noted, though, that the study under analysis was carried out primarily among healthy children, which makes the outcomes of the study less applicable to the case in point than they might have been. Nevertheless, the correlation between the BMI data and the propensity of the patient toward a consistent gain of weight show quite evidently that the use of BMI one of the tools for preventing the disease from occurring is, in fact, a possibility. More importantly, the outcomes of the study carried out by Schwartz et al. (2015) make it quite clear that the effects that antibiotics have on children and their weight can become reversible once the BMI tool is incorporated into the range of strategies applied to solve the problem:

We found that associations between antibiotic exposure and BMI change were reversible, persistent, and progressive. These findings are consistent with previous studies of the complex association between antibiotics and the microbiome. Some human studies have reported recovery of the microbiota after exposure to antibiotics, supporting our reversible association. (Schwartz et al. 2015, p. 15)

Furthermore, the study results indicate that the uncertainty surrounding the issue is predetermined by the fact that the microbiota is prone to an unceasing, lifelong change. In other words, the gravity of the effects that it can be exposed to at a very young age of the patient may be reduced slightly due to the changes that ti experiences as the patient develops physically.

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Another theory for the exposure to the threat of obesity after the antibiotic-based treatment concerns the possible change in the proportion of calories in the carbohydrates. Since the patient’s microbiota is responsible for lipogenesis, the exposure of the patient to carbohydrate diets is likely to cause the body to feel the need to accumulate carbohydrates. As a result, the latter is acquired and stored for a significant amount of time, leading to the weight problems that start at a very young age and are bound to turn chronic as the child grows. Indeed, the lipogenesis and the associated processes promote a positive energy balance (Remely et al. 2015).

Because the microbiota is especially prone to changing in childhood and teenage years, it is highly likely to create the pathway for the obesity issue to not only commence but also aggravate as the child grows. The progressive effects of the exposure, in their turn, are bound to become ever stronger as the child grows; consequently, the obesity issue that begins on the identified time slot gets increasingly more difficult to address as time passes.

When considering the tools for assessing the threat of the child developing an obesity issue as a result of consuming antibiotics, one might consider the use of the tool known as the Firmicutes/Bacteroidetes ratio indicator (Schwartz et al. 2015). The subject matter helps detect the inconsistencies in the patient’s gut microbiome so that the threat of a disruption in the crucial metabolic processes could be spotted and addressed immediately. As a result, successful prevention of the obesity issue may become a possibility (Remely et al. 2015).

Although managing the obesity issue caused by the excessive consumption of antibiotics at the earliest stages of the patient’s development is barely possible, the preventive and forecasting tools can be designed so that the problem could be avoided or managed efficiently. The unpredictability of the issue is one of the primary reasons for being concerned about children developing the specified disorder. Thus, it is imperative that the appropriate tools for handling the issue could be designed and implemented successfully.

It should be borne in mind that, unless the appropriate steps are taken to confront the issue, the problem of obesity as an inevitable outcome of antibiotics consumption at an early age will become a part and parcel of the contemporary global environment. Therefore, further research aimed at detecting the means of problem prevention, and its efficient mitigation must be viewed as a necessity.

Thus, the focus must lie on the prevention of the problem by analyzing the factors that cause the issue to occur. Currently, the BMI tool is suggested as the possible means of forecasting the issue and addressing it promptly. While being admittedly flawed and lacking consistency in its measurement system, the BMI framework can become the foil for the design of a sustainable treatment approach.


Childhood obesity is one of the primary concerns not only in the United States but also all over the world. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state quite clearly that there has been a steep rise in the childhood obesity rates among the American population over the past few decades. Thus, there is an urgent need to clarify the effects of antibiotics on children, as well as verify whether the consumption of the given type of medicine causes a rapid and consistent weight gain.

A brief overview of the recent studies has shown that there is, in fact, a clear connection between the usage of antibiotics and the associated drugs and the development of obesity in young patients. Particularly, the first three years of life are the crucial stage at which the prerequisites for further obesity issues can be created due to the effects that antibiotics have on the young patients’ microbiota. Furthermore, the fact that metabolic processes, the immune system, and the cognition processes are shaped in children on the identified time slot points to the apparent threat that the interference of antibiotics is likely to have on the further development of the patients.

When considering these mechanisms of triggering obesity in children with the use of antibiotics, one may assume that the process is launched by affecting the commensal microorganisms that cause the essential metabolic processes in the human body. As a result, the crucial metabolic stages are slowed down significantly, with the following disruption of the processes of burning energy. Particularly, the effects that are observed among children using antibiotics actively are attributed to the disruption of the natural bacteria balance in the patient’s body.

It should be borne in mind, though, that the mechanism of obesity development in children that are treated with antibiotics excessively has not been studied fully yet. Therefore, there is a dire need to carry out additional research that will shed some light on the risk factors that the target audiences are exposed to when consuming antibiotics. Specifically, it is crucial to make sure whether the problem can be addressed by reconsidering the dosage of antibiotics for young children.

The application of the BMI tools is typically considered to be one of the most efficient means of monitoring the patients’ wellbeing and preventing the instances of obesity development among young children that are administered antibiotics as a part of their treatment. One must admit that the identified approach cannot be viewed as impeccable since the phenomenon of BNI is often interpreted as questionable and possibly lacking trustworthiness.

Nevertheless, studies have demonstrated the link between the MI data and the patient’s propensity toward developing weight issues. Therefore, it is crucial that the BMI framework could be incorporated into the strategy to be used by therapists so that the use of antibiotics could not be associated with the progress of childhood obesity.

Literature Cited

Fuster, JJ, Zuriaga, MA, Ngo, DTM, Farb, MG, Aprahamian, T, Yamaguchi, TP, Gokce, N, Walsh, K. 2015. Noncanonical Wnt Signaling promotes obesity-induced adipose tissue inflammation and metabolic dysfunction independent of adipose tissue expansion. Diabetes. 64(4): 1235-48.

Lau, E, Carvalho, D, Pina-Vaz, C, Barbosa, J A, Freitas, P. 2015. Beyond gut microbiota: understanding obesity and type 2 diabetes. Hormones. 14(3): 358-69.

Liu, M, Gillis, LJ, Persadie, NR, Atkinson, SA, Phillips, SM, Timmons, BW. 2015. Effects of short-term exercise training with and without milk intake on cardiometabolic and inflammatory adaptations in obese adolescents. Pediatr Exerc Sci. 27(4): 518-24.

Principi, N, Esposito, S. 2016. Antibiotic administration and the development of obesity in children. Int J Antimicrob Agents. 47(3): 171-77.

Remely, M, Hippe, B, Zanner, J, Aumueller, E, Brath, H, Haslberger, AG. 2015. Gut microbiota of obese, type 2 diabetic individuals is enriched in faecalibacterium prausnitzii, akkermansia muciniphila and peptostreptococcus anaerobius after weight loss. Endocr Metab Immune Disord Drug Targets. 15(1): 1-8.

Schwartz, BS, Pollak, J, Bailey-Davis, L, Hirsch, AG, Cosgrove, SE, Nau, C, Kress, AM, Glass, TA, Bandeen-Roche, K. 2015. Antibiotic use and childhood body mass index trajectory. International Journal of Obesity. 1(1): 1-29.

Song, SW, Yoo, SJ, Yoo, JR, Lee, KH, Kim, JW, Heo, ST. 2015. Severe fever with thrombocytopenia syndrome mimicking scrub typhus: three case reports. New York (NY): Academic Research Foundation 330 p.

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