Objectives: Antibiotics increase weight in farm animals and may cause weight gain in humans. We used electronic health records from a large primary care organization to determine the effect of antibiotics on weight and BMI in healthy adolescents with acne.
Methods: We performed a retrospective cohort study of adolescents with acne prescribed ≥4 weeks of oral antibiotics with weight measurements within 18 months pre-antibiotics and 12 months post-antibiotics. We compared within-individual changes in weight-for-age Z-scores (WAZs) and BMI-for-age Z-scores (BMIZs). We used: (i) paired t-tests to analyse changes between the last pre-antibiotics versus the first post-antibiotic measurements; (ii) piecewise-constant-mixed models to capture changes between mean measurements pre- versus post-antibiotics; (iii) piecewise-linear-mixed models to capture changes in trajectory slopes pre- versus post-antibiotics; and (iv) χ(2) tests to compare proportions of adolescents with ≥0.2 Z-scores WAZ or BMIZ increase or decrease.
Results: Our cohort included 1012 adolescents with WAZs; 542 also had BMIZs. WAZs decreased post-antibiotics in all analyses [change between last WAZ pre-antibiotics versus first WAZ post-antibiotics = -0.041 Z-scores (P < 0.001); change between mean WAZ pre- versus post-antibiotics = -0.050 Z-scores (P < 0.001); change in WAZ trajectory slopes pre- versus post-antibiotics = -0.025 Z-scores/6 months (P = 0.002)]. More adolescents had a WAZ decrease post-antibiotics ≥0.2 Z-scores than an increase (26% versus 18%; P < 0.001). Trends were similar, though not statistically significant, for BMIZ changes.
Conclusions: Contrary to original expectations, long-term antibiotic use in healthy adolescents with acne was not associated with weight gain. This finding, which was consistent across all analyses, does not support a weight-promoting effect of antibiotics in adolescents.
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