Early Life Antibiotic Exposure and Weight Development in Children

J Pediatr. 2016 Sep:176:105-113.e2. doi: 10.1016/j.jpeds.2016.06.015. Epub 2016 Jul 8.


Objective: To examine the timing, frequency, and type of antibiotic exposure during the first 10 years of life in association with (over)weight across this period in a cohort of 979 children.

Study design: Within the Child, Parents and Health: Lifestyle and Genetic Constitution Birth Cohort Study, antibiotic exposure record was obtained from general practitioners. Anthropometric outcomes (age- and sex-standardized body mass index, weight and height z-scores, and overweight) were measured repeatedly at 7 time points during the first 10 years of life. Generalized estimating equations method was used for statistical analysis.

Results: After adjusting for confounding factors, children exposed to one course of antibiotics compared with none in the first 6 months of life had increased weight- (adjusted generalized estimating equations estimates [adjβ] 0.24; 95% CI 0.03-0.44) and height (adjβ 0.23; 95% CI 0.0002-0.46) z-scores; exposure to ≥2 courses during the second year of life was associated with both increased weight (adjβ 0.34; 95% CI 0.07-0.60), and height z-scores (adjβ 0.29; 95% CI -0.003 to 0.59). Exposure later in life was not associated with anthropometric outcomes. Associations with weight z-scores were mainly driven by exposure to broad- (≥2 courses: adjβ 0.11; 95% CI 0.003-0.22) and narrow-spectrum β-lactams (1 course: adjβ 0.18; 95% CI 0.005-0.35) during the follow-up period. Specific antibiotic used was not associated with body mass index z-scores and overweight.

Conclusions: Repeated exposure to antibiotics early in life, especially β-lactam agents, is associated with increased weight and height. If causality of obesity can be established in future studies, this further highlights the need for restrictive antibiotic use and avoidance of prescriptions when there is minimal clinical benefit.

Keywords: antimicrobial agents; childhood overweight; gut microbiota.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / adverse effects*
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / pharmacology
  • Body Height / drug effects*
  • Body Weight / drug effects*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Surveys and Questionnaires


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents