PUBLIC HEALTH

Childhood obesity linked to eating food from animals treated with antibiotics: Chinese researchers

Children with high traces of antibiotics in their systems are two to three times more likely to be obese, with boys affected more than girls

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 23 February, 2016, 2:13pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 01 March, 2016, 11:22am

Children who eat food over a long period produced from animals treated with antibiotics may be more likely to be obese, according to research carried out in China.

The risk is also linked to drinking water containing traces of the veterinary form of the drugs, the study said.

China’s livestock and poultry industries are notorious for using high volumes of antibiotics to treat animals.

READ MORE: China consumes almost half the world’s antibiotics - and they’re coursing through its waterways

A study by the Chinese Academy of Sciences also showed that most rivers in eastern and central China have high concentrations of the drugs in their waters, the Southern Metropolis News reported last year.

Researchers at the public health school at Fudan University in Shanghai carried out the study on 586 children aged between eight and 11.

Traces of up to 21 antibiotics were found in 80 per cent of the children’s urine samples.

The researchers found that the children with high traces of antibiotics found in their systems were nearly two to three times more likely to be obese than the youngsters with low concentrations.

The researchers said there was a “significant association” between veterinary antibiotics and obesity among the young. The study was published in the scientific journal Environmental International.

Researchers found no link between antibiotics given to humans and a higher risk of obesity among children.

The association between obesity and antibiotics was linked to the sex of the youngsters as boys were more likely to be affected than girls.

One of the reseachers, Wang Hexing, said the team planned to carry out more research on animals over the coming years to identify the affects of exposure to antibiotics on other aspects of children’s health.

READ MORE: Chinese government must tackle the overuse of antibiotics

China consumed about half of the world’s antibiotics in 2013, about 162,000 tonnes, with 52 per cent of the drugs used for animals, Wang said in a separate article on the health school’s website.

“Limited data is available for the effect of antibiotic exposure in schoolchildren on adiposity from various sources, including from the use of contaminated food or drinking water,” he wrote.