Research shows antibiotics may be the trigger
One in five of UK school age children is actually obese – a significant risk factor for long term health. But new research suggests it may not just be for the obvious reasons – too much food and too little exercise.
An unexpected trigger may be antibiotics.
We know that antibiotics kill both good and bad bacteria, altering and impoverishing the composition of the microbiome – the vast community of microbes that inhabit the gut.
A healthy balance of bacteria in your gut is central to immune health. We know, too, that the role of probiotics (good bacteria) is to crowd out and fight off any harmful or pathogenic bacteria that can otherwise allow infections to take hold.
So, until recently, most research on probiotics was focused on how they can help resolve inflammatory conditions like IBS and yeast infections like candida and thrush.
But now new work by Professor Martin Blaser of New York University School of Medicine indicates that probiotics might have a role in helping prevent childhood obesity – which is on the rise.
How antibiotics reduce hunger signals
Professor Blaser notes that most children, as they grow up, are exposed to multiple doses of antibiotics for complaints like ear and throat infections. This inevitably adversely alters the balance of good and bad bacteria in the gut – certainly in the medium term, and in some cases, long term.
One effect of this adverse balance is to weaken the effect of a hormone that regulates hunger levels – called ghrelin. Ghrelin is produced in the stomach and intestines and normally when you eat, ghrelin levels drop, and that signals to your brain that you feel full and you stop eating.
However, when there are too many harmful bacteria in the gut, the microbiome balance is disturbed and levels of ghrelin stay high even after eating. The individual takes longer to feel full – and overeats.
It is this sequence, suggests Dr Blaser, that may help explain the rising tide of childhood obesity. (Other researchers suggest the sequence may well apply to adults.)
Add in the effect of more sedentary lifestyles and the ubiquity of high calorie food, and it is a credible hypothesis.
How multi-strain probiotics can help
Since probiotics are so safe, it seems a good safeguard to ensure that a child should receive a short programme of probiotics following a course of antibiotics. I would suggest a month of probiotics.
If you do, it should be a multi-strain probiotic because different strains colonise in different parts of the gut and have different functions.
Since there is now good evidence that a good multi-strain probiotic can improve digestion, help reduce the severity of allergies and improve the absorption of nutrients, it can only have a general positive effect on your child’s health.
MicroBiotic Plus is a multi-strain probiotic that has been developed from research at Nebraska University – a world centre for probiotic research. It contains some of the most effective Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium strains.
There is a free report on the latest evidence for probiotics that you can get on this page https://uni-vite.com/microbiotic/
This article was written by Colin Rose
Senior Associate Member of the Royal Society of Medicine, who has been writing on science for 40 years
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MicroBiotic Plus is a 7-strain probiotic with 7.5 billion live probiotics and added prebiotic fibre. See microbiotic.co.uk.
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- Antibiotics in early life and obesity: Laura M. Cox and Martin J. Blaser; Nat Rev Endocrinol. 2015 Mar; 11(3): 182–190.
- Antibiotic overuse: Stop the killing of beneficial bacteria. Blaser M. Nature. 2011 Aug 24;476(7361):393-4.