Published: Wed, September 19, 2018
Medicine | By Tracy Klein

Using household disinfectants could be making your kids fat

Using household disinfectants could be making your kids fat

The scientists discovered that young babies in households where disinfectants were used often had high levels of a particular gut microbe (Lachnospiraceae) and that a three years of age their body mass index (BMI) was higher than children in households where disinfectants had not been heavily used.

The researchers looked at data from the Canadian Healthy Infant Longitudinal Development (CHILD) birth cohort on microbes in infant fecal matter. When that group was three-years-old, their body mass index was higher than children who didn't live in homes where disinfectants are frequently used.

Anita Kozyrskyj, a U of A pediatrics professor and lead on the investigation into how adjustment of infant gut microbiome impact health says that the results have shown that infants who are living in households where disinfectants are used at least twice a week are likely to have higher levels of bacteria called Lachnospiraceae at three to four months of age. No such association was observed when detergents or eco-friendly products were used. One other has shown that piglets uncovered to aerosolized disinfectants display camouflage altered intestine microbiota.

However, the same association was not found with detergents or eco-friendly cleaners, the CHILD study found. Babies living in households that used eco-friendly cleaners had different microbiota and were less likely to be overweight as toddlers.

"Based on our study's finding, we recommend against frequent use of disinfectant cleaners in households with infants and suggest that parents consider alternative cleaning products", she said.

"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", said Anita Kozyrskyj, Professor at the University of Alberta in Canada. "However, we found no evidence that these gut microbiome changes caused the reduced obesity risk".

The CHILD research study birth cohort has been created to assess the impact of indoor environmental exposures, including household cleaning products, on postnatal health. "These results suggest that gut microbiota were the culprits, and the association between disinfectant use and becoming overweight".

In a related CMAJ commentary, epidemiologists Dr. Noel Mueller and Moira Differding of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health write: "There is 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".

The study found infants in homes with high use of eco cleaners had a lower risk of becoming overweight or obese. Kozyrskyj said good dietary patterns and a mother's overall healthier lifestyle can all help in ensuring a healthier BMI and the right composition of gut microbiomes in babies. "In the case of the eco-friendly products, I must admit that we were a bit surprised". "Animal model research is also required".

And "higher frequency of use of disinfectant was associated with higher abundance of Lachnospiraceae", said Kozyrskyj.

"Further study is required on the mechanisms through which household cleaning products alter gut microbial composition and the subsequent role this might have on metabolic disease", the authors continue.

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