Children Could Be Overweight Because of Household Cleaning Products Altering their Gut Microbiota

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A Canadian study recently published in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal) suggests that children might be overweight due to exposure to household cleaners which appear to alter their gut microbiota.

Researchers from Canada analyzed data from the Canadian Healthy Infant Longitudinal Development (CHILD) to see the results on microbes in infant fecal matter. The study also used WHO growth charts for BMI scores.

The study analyzed the gut flora of 757 children aged from 3-4 months and 1-3 years. They looked at how much the babies and toddlers were exposed to disinfectants, detergents and eco-friendly products parents use at home.

Researchers found substantial differences in gut flora in babies 3-4 months old where household disinfectants like multisurface cleaners were used. These chemicals were associated with a lower level of two bacteria: Haemophilus and Clostridium, and a higher level of Lachnospiraceae – which kept increasing as disinfectants were used. This association was not found in detergents or eco-friendly cleaners.

Anita Kozyrskyj, a pediatrics professor at the University of Alberta and the principal investigator on the SyMBIOTA project stated:

“We found that infants living in households with disinfectants being used at least weekly were twice as likely to have higher levels of the gut microbes Lachnospiraceae at age 3-4 months; when they were 3 years old, their body mass index was higher than children not exposed to heavy home use of disinfectants as an infant.”

The Early Study is Limited

There are some limitations to the study, explains the authors. Eco-friendly cleaners used in households showed that the babies were less prone to be overweight as toddlers:

“Those 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.”

The authors explain that the antibacterial cleaning products can change the environmental microbiome and impact the infants’ gut microbial composition.

However, Kozyrskyj also believes that the families that used eco-friendly products could also have a healthier eating habit and lifestyle, contributing to a healthy infant’s gut microbiomes and normal weight.

She concludes that the team will have to better explore “the intriguing possibility” of the connection between household disinfectants might and childhood obesity, also adding that future studies will have to classify cleaning products by their ingredients.

Rex Austin

Rex Austinwas born and raised in Thunder Bay Ontario on the shores of Lake Superior. Apart from running his own podcast (Ice Fishing And Other “Cool” Things), he spends his time canoeing and backpacking in Northern Ontario.. As a journalist Rex has published stories for Global News (Thunder Bay) we well as Buzz Feed and Joystiq. As a contributor to Great Lakes Ledger, Rex most covers science and health stories. Contact Rexhere