Recent study findings suggested that antibiotic use in children might negate the long-term benefits of breast-feeding by affecting intestinal microbiota.
Willem M. de Vos
The researchers noted that breast-feeding can reduce the likelihood of childhood infection and becoming overweight in early life. In addition, they hypothesized that antibiotic use, which can alter the microbiota, might be a modifying factor in the relationship between breast-feeding and infant weight gain.
To determine whether early-life antibiotics could weaken the benefits of breast-feeding, the researchers performed a retrospective cohort study of 226 Finnish children aged 2 to 6 years who were participating in a probiotic trial during 2009 and 2010. The researchers assessed fecal microbiota composition in 42 of these children. Afterward, they examined the associations between breast-feeding duration and antibiotic use and later values of BMI.
Among the children who were antibiotic-naive (n = 113) before being weaned off breast-feeding, each month of breast-feeding decreased later antibiotic use by a mean of 5% (95% CI, 2-8) and decreased BMI by an average of 0.08 z score units (95% CI, 0.04-0.11). In the cohort of children who took antibiotics (n = 113), each month of breast-feeding decreased later antibiotic use by 4% (95% CI, 0-7), but did not decrease BMI.
In the 42 children whose fecal microbiota were assessed, children with a breast-feeding duration shorter than 6 months and no early-life antibiotic use had 55% less Bifidobacterium (95% CI, 43-87) and 71% less Akkermansia (95% CI, 28-87) compared with those who had a longer breast-feeding duration. In the same subgroup, children with early-life antibiotic use had 39% less Bifidobacterium (95% CI, 30-68) and 69% less Akkermansia (95% CI, 22-90) compared with those who did not take antibiotics in early life.
The researchers believe these results suggest that the breast milk’s effect on the microbiota leads to long-term metabolic benefits and that these benefits can be disrupted by antibiotic use.
“Our results indicate that short duration of breast-feeding and antibiotic use before weaning are associated with microbiota development toward a composition that may increase weight gain,” the researchers wrote. “Promoting the natural development of the microbiota may be an effective way to improve long-term health in children.” – by Will Offit
Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.