Maintaining a clean home is an everyday task for most families - unfortunately it could inadvertently lead to unhealthy weight gain in children. A recent Canadian study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal found that overusing disinfectant cleaning products increases the risk of childhood obesity by making changes in the bacteria that live in a child's gut (intestine).
During the study, researchers collected the fecal samples of 757 babies that were 3 to 4 months old and asked their mothers about the household cleaning products they used. Then, they tracked the weight gain of the babies until age 3. The fecal samples of the infants that were regularly exposed to antibacterial cleaners showed that they had higher levels of Lachnospiraceae, a type of bacteria in the gut that squeezes excess energy out of food. It was found that these babies were more prone to having a higher body mass index and overweight by the age of 3. An important finding in the study is that infants whose parents used environmentally friendly cleaning products were less likely to be overweight by age 3.
The research observations pertained to those who cleaned daily or more than once a week. Anita Kozyrskyj, professor of Pediatrics at Canada's University of Alberta, and senior researcher recommends taking it easy when it comes to using disinfectants. If disinfectant cleaning products are frequently used (once a week or more), it can cause changes in a baby's gut bacteria, causing some bacteria to increase and others to decline.
Antibacterial Cleaners and Lachnospiraceae
Antibacterial cleaners, in particular, were associated with an increase of Lachnospiraceae in infants. Lachnospiraceae is bacteria that shouldn't be heavily present in the intestines of babies that aren't consuming solid foods yet. According to Gail Cresci with the Cleveland Clinic and an expert in pediatric gastroenterology, having an excessive amount of Lachnospiraceae bacteria in the gut from an early age can cause developing children to be inundated with excessive calories. According to the Canadian study, Infants living in homes where disinfectants were highly used were twice as likely to have a gut microbiome with excess Lachnospiraceae. Infants from households that used eco-friendly cleaners (twice a day) were more prone to a normal weight. The eco-friendly cleaners used were either store bought or homemade, using natural ingredients.
Further studies exploring the possibility that using household disinfectants are contributing to the cause of obesity in kids need to be performed. In the meantime, it’s better to be safe than sorry and only use eco-friendly cleaners.