Household cleaning products may contribute to kids' overweight by altering their gut microbiota

September 17, 2018, Canadian Medical Association Journal
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

Commonly used household cleaners could be making children overweight by altering their gut microbiota, suggests a Canadian study published in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal).

The study analyzed the of 757 infants from the general population at age 3-4 months and weight at ages 1 and 3 years, looking at exposure to disinfectants, detergents and eco-friendly products used in the home.

Researchers from across Canada looked at data from the Canadian Healthy Infant Longitudinal Development (CHILD) birth cohort on microbes in infant fecal matter. They used World Health Organization growth charts for body mass index (BMI) scores.

Associations with altered gut flora in babies 3-4 months old were strongest for frequent use of household disinfectants such as multisurface cleaners, which showed lower levels of Haemophilus and Clostridium bacteria but higher levels of Lachnospiraceae. The researchers also observed an increase in Lachnospiraceae bacteria with more frequent cleaning with disinfectants. They did not find the same association with detergents or eco-friendly cleaners. Studies of piglets have found similar changes in the when exposed to aerosol disinfectants.

"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 was higher than children not exposed to heavy home use of disinfectants as an infant," said Anita Kozyrskyj, a University of Alberta pediatrics professor, and principal investigator on the SyMBIOTA project, an investigation into how alteration of the infant gut microbiome impacts health.

Babies living in households that used eco-friendly cleaners had different microbiota and were less likely 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," she said.

She suggests that the use of eco-friendly products may be linked to healthier overall maternal lifestyles and eating habits, contributing in turn to the healthier gut microbiomes and weight of their .

"Antibacterial cleaning products have the capacity to change the environmental microbiome and alter risk for child overweight," write the authors. "Our study provides novel information regarding the impact of these products on infant gut microbial composition and outcomes of overweight in the same population."

A related commentary provides perspective on the interesting findings.

"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," write epidemiologists Dr. Noel Mueller and Moira Differding, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, in a related commentary.

They call 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."

Dr. Kozyrskyj agrees and points to the need for studies that classify cleaning products by their actual ingredients. "The inability to do this was a limitation of our study."

Explore further: C-sections and gut bacteria increase risk of childhood obesity

More information: Mon H. Tun et al. Postnatal exposure to household disinfectants, infant gut microbiota and subsequent risk of overweight in children, Canadian Medical Association Journal (2018). DOI: 10.1503/cmaj.170809

Moira K. Differding et al. Are household disinfectants microbially mediated obesogens?, Canadian Medical Association Journal (2018). DOI: 10.1503/cmaj.181134

Related Stories

C-sections and gut bacteria increase risk of childhood obesity

February 22, 2018
New CHILD Study research has found that overweight and obese women are more like to have children who are overweight or obese by three years of age—and that bacteria in the gut may be partially to blame.

Asthma in infant boys may eventually be preventable

November 27, 2017
A new University of Alberta study shows that the family risk for asthma—typically passed from moms to babies—may not be a result of genetics alone: it may also involve the microbes found in a baby's digestive tract.

Influence of C-section, formula feeding and antibiotics on infant gut microbiome

September 26, 2017
A new analytical approach, described in open-access journal Frontiers in Pediatrics, shows how different interventions - cesarean section, formula feeding, and antibiotics - can alter an infant's developing gut microbiome.

Nurses' regular use of disinfectants is associated with developing COPD

September 11, 2017
Milan, Italy: Regular use of disinfectants is linked to a higher risk of developing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), according to new research looking at incidence of the disease in over 55,000 nurses in the ...

Pet exposure may reduce allergy and obesity

April 6, 2017
If you need a reason to become a dog lover, how about their ability to help protect kids from allergies and obesity?

What you eat while pregnant may affect your baby's gut

July 4, 2018
A mother's diet during pregnancy may have an effect on the composition of her baby's gut microbiome—the community of bacteria living in the gut—and the effect may vary by delivery mode, according to study published in ...

Recommended for you

Inflammation in the womb may explain why some babies are more prone to sepsis after birth

October 9, 2018
Each year 15 million infants are born preterm and face high risks of short- and long-term complications, including sepsis, severe inflammation of the gut, and neurodevelopmental disorders. A new report in the American Journal ...

Dummies not to blame for common speech disorder in kids

October 9, 2018
New University of Sydney research shows bottles, dummies, and thumb sucking in the early years of life do not cause or worsen phonological impairment, the most common type of speech disorder in children.

'Genes are not destiny' when it comes to weight

October 9, 2018
A healthy home environment could help offset children's genetic susceptibilities to obesity, according to new research led by UCL.

Old drug could have new use helping sick premature babies

October 8, 2018
Researchers from The University of Western Australia, King Edward Memorial Hospital and Curtin University are investigating whether an old drug could be used to help very sick premature babies.

Insufficient sleep associated with risky behavior in teens

October 1, 2018
Adolescents require 8-10 hours of sleep at night for optimal health, according to sleep experts, yet more than 70 percent of high school students get less than that. Previous studies have demonstrated that insufficient sleep ...

Checked off 'the talk' with your teen? Not so fast: Once isn't enough

October 1, 2018
Patting yourself on the back for gritting through "the talk" with your kid? Not so fast: new research from Brigham Young University family life professor Laura Padilla-Walker suggests that when it comes to your teens, one ...

2 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Gigel
not rated yet Sep 17, 2018
That may not be the only cause of obesity. Food preservatives may be another one. If they kill gut bacteria, then people would get more nutrients than usual and would get fat. I lost weight when I ate less bread. There were other causes in my case (I was eating less, more fruits), but someone else told me he lost weight too when he quit bread.
gzurbay
not rated yet Sep 17, 2018
Ammonia is added to control bacteria in ground beef, - so if the burger is under cooked - does the ammonia wipe some of the micro-biome ??

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.