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. 2013 Jan;37(1):16-23.
doi: 10.1038/ijo.2012.132. Epub 2012 Aug 21.

Infant Antibiotic Exposures and Early-Life Body Mass

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Infant Antibiotic Exposures and Early-Life Body Mass

L Trasande et al. Int J Obes (Lond). .
Free PMC article


Objectives: To examine the associations of antibiotic exposures during the first 2 years of life and the development of body mass over the first 7 years of life.

Design: Longitudinal birth cohort study.

Subjects: A total of 11 532 children born at 2500 g in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC), a population-based study of children born in Avon, UK in 1991-1992.

Measurements: Exposures to antibiotics during three different early-life time windows (<6 months, 6-14 months, 15-23 months), and indices of body mass at five time points (6 weeks, 10 months, 20 months, 38 months and 7 years).

Results: Antibiotic exposure during the earliest time window (<6 months) was consistently associated with increased body mass (+0.105 and +0.083 s.d. unit, increase in weight-for-length Z-scores at 10 and 20 months, P<0.001 and P=0.001, respectively; body mass index (BMI) Z-score at 38 months +0.067 s.d. units, P=0.009; overweight OR 1.22 at 38 months, P=0.029) in multivariable, mixed-effect models controlling for known social and behavioral obesity risk factors. Exposure from 6 to 14 months showed no association with body mass, while exposure from 15 to 23 months was significantly associated with increased BMI Z-score at 7 years (+0.049 s.d. units, P=0.050). Exposures to non-antibiotic medications were not associated with body mass.

Conclusions: Exposure to antibiotics during the first 6 months of life is associated with consistent increases in body mass from 10 to 38 months. Exposures later in infancy (6-14 months, 15-23 months) are not consistently associated with increased body mass. Although effects of early exposures are modest at the individual level, they could have substantial consequences for population health. Given the prevalence of antibiotic exposures in infants, and in light of the growing concerns about childhood obesity, further studies are needed to isolate effects and define life-course implications for body mass and cardiovascular risks.

Conflict of interest statement


The authors declare no conflict of interest.


Figure 1
Figure 1
Multivariable associations of <6 months (a), 6–14 months (b) and 15–23 months (c) antibiotic exposure and body mass outcomes (WHO weight-for-length Z-score <2 years; BMI Z-score ≥2 years). Exposure window shaded for contemporaneous comparison of children who were exposed and not exposed to antibiotics, adjusting for birth weight and other factors associated with antibiotic exposures. 95% confidence intervals represented in lines, and point estimate represented as bullet.
Figure 2
Figure 2
Adjusted odds ratios of <6 months (a), 6–14 months (b) and 15–23 months (c) antibiotic exposure for overweight and obesity at 38 months and 7 years. 95% confidence intervals represented in lines, and point estimate represented as bullet. All multivariable models included birth weight, maternal parity, race, social class, education, parental BMI (categorized as mother pre-pregnancy overweight/obese, father overweight/obese and both overweight/obese), first trimester smoking, breastfeeding (categorized as never/breastfed cessation before 6 months/continuous breastfeeding through 6 months), timing of introduction of complementary foods, time spent per day watching television, in car on weekdays, in car on weekends, dietary pattern classifications at 38 months and duration of nighttime sleep at 7 years.

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