A new University of Alberta study suggests frequent use of household cleaners likely increases the risk of obesity in young children.
The researchers found infants at three to four months of age living in homes where disinfectants were used at least once a week were twice as likely to have higher levels of the bacteria called Lachnospiraceae, which would eventually result in a higher risk of being overweight.
“At three years of age, those same children had a higher body mass index than children who were not exposed to frequent home use of disinfectants as infants,” said Anita Kozyrskyj, pediatrics professor and SyMBIOTA project principal investigator.
Kozyrskyj said gut microbiome enriched with Lachnospiraceae is more than just associated with children becoming overweight or obese but “directly responsible.”
The study used data from 757 children and examined their exposure to three categories of household cleaners — disinfectants, detergents and eco-friendly products — on the infant gut microbiome.
“We did not find a relationship between detergents and gut microbiome change or obesity risk that was independent of disinfectant usage,” Kozyrskyj said.
The researcher said it was important to distinguish detergents from disinfectants since the usage of both is highly connected. More than 80 per cent of households use multi-surface cleaners with disinfectants at least once a week and infant exposure likely occurs through contact with aerosols or cleansed surfaces, Kozyrskyj said.
“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.
The study found infants in homes with high use of eco cleaners had a lower risk of becoming overweight or obese.
“Infants growing up in households with heavy use of eco cleaners had much lower levels of different types of gut microbes, such as Enterobacteriaceae,” said Mon Tun, a U of A PhD candidate and first author of the study. “However, we found no evidence that these specific gut microbiome differences were associated with the reduced obesity risk.”
Tun speculated mothers in households with heavy use of eco cleaners may eat healthier food; therefore, they have healthier microbiomes during pregnancy, which may, in turn, have a positive impact on the newborn microbiome and later weight gain.
Based on the study, the researchers argue eliminating disinfectant agents in your home can help protect your infant’s gut microbiome and reduce the risk of weight gain and obesity.