Parents and pediatricians often turn to antibiotics when a child is sick. These medications can serve as quick and effective panaceas for a variety of illnesses.
But a new study may give some pause before filling that prescription. It found a link between early and frequent use of antibiotics and obesity.
Dr. Charles Bailey is one of the authors of the study, recently published in JAMA Pediatrics. He is also an attending physician at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. His study looked at the medical records of almost 65,000 babies and children and found that those who received repeated courses -- 4 or more -- of antibiotics before the age of two, were 11% more likely to become obese by the age of five.
The study found that, though many antibiotics are highly effective at killing off harmful bacteria that causes infection, they are also really good at killing the beneficial bacteria in the body -- specifically the bacteria in our guts, which help us digest properly and burn calories.
Bailey cautions, however, that this study shows a link, but not necessarily causation. "Because we're looking at just health records and we're looking back in time, we don't have the information that would let us specifically say the antibiotics were the cause of obesity," he said.