Household cleaners could be responsible for making children overweight, by changing their gut microbiota, medical researchers say.
A study, published in Canadian Medical Association Journal, analysed the gut flora of 757 infants at age three to four months, and weight at ages one and three years, while cross referencing their exposure to disinfectants and detergents or eco-friendly cleaning products.
Children exposed to standard products were more likely to be overweight as toddlers than those living in households that used eco-friendly cleaners.
Exposure to disinfectants at least one a week appeared to lead to lower levels of Haemophilus and Clostridium bacteria but higher levels of Lachnospiraceae.
“When they were three years old, their body mass index was higher than children not exposed to heavy home use of disinfectants as an infant,” said Anita Kozyrskyj, a University of Alberta pediatrics professor.
She said that infants growing up in households with heavy use of eco cleaners had much lower levels of the gut microbes Enterobacteriaceae. “However, we found no evidence that these gut microbiome changes caused the reduced obesity risk,” Kozyrskyj said.
A related commentary by epidemiologists Noel Mueller and Moira Differding said there was “biologic plausibility to the finding that early-life exposure to disinfectants may increase risk of childhood obesity through the alterations in bacteria within the Lachnospiraceae family”.
They called for further studies “to explore the intriguing possibility that use of household disinfectants might contribute to the complex causes of obesity through microbially mediated mechanisms.”
Bill Condie is a science journalist based in Adelaide, Australia.
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