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Do Household Cleaners Contribute To Childhood Obesity?

According to a Canadian study published in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal), common household cleaners may contribute to obesity in children. The study looked at the gut flora of 757 infants ranging in age from 3-4 months to 3 years in light of exposure to household detergents, disinfectants, and eco-friendly cleaners. Researchers also referred to World Health Organization growth charts for body mass index (BMI) scores as well as data from the Canadian Healthy Infant Longitudinal Development (CHILD) birth cohort regarding microbes in infant fecal matter.

Twice As Likely

"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," said Anita Kozyrskyj, a University of Alberta pediatrics professor and principal investigator on the SyMBIOTA project, an investigation into how infant gut microbiome alterations affect health.

Babies exposed to eco-friendly cleaners had different gut microbiota and were seemingly less susceptible to excessive weight gain 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," Kozyrsky said.

Link To Healthier Lifestyles

Kozyrsky and her team suggested eco-friendly cleaning product use may be connected to overall healthier lifestyles, including healthier pregnancies and eating habits that contribute to gut microbiome improvement.

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