Infants exposed to broad-spectrum antibiotics before aged 24 months were more likely to experience early childhood obesity, according to recently published data.

L. Charles Bailey, MD, PhD, of the pediatrics department at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, and colleagues examined the electronic health records of 64,580 children from 2001 to 2013. Participants were eligible if they had annual visits from 0 to 23 months, as well as at least one follow-up by age 5 years.

For all children, the prevalence of obesity was 10% at 2 years, 14% at 3 years and 15% at 4 years. The prevalence of overweight or obese was 23%, 30% and 33% at the same ages.

Children received a mean of 2.3 antibiotic treatment episodes from 0 to 23 months. Sixty-nine percent of children had at least one exposure to antibiotics during this time, with 62% exposed to narrow-spectrum antibiotics (penicillin and amoxicillin) and 41% to broad-spectrum antibiotics.

Several other previously identified associations with obesity risk factors were also present. Male sex, public insurance, Hispanic ethnicity, steroid use, diagnosed asthma and an urban practice environment were each associated with childhood obesity within the study group.