Household cleaners could be making your kids fat

Most parents feel strongly that keeping the house spick and span is the secret to keeping the family healthy, right? Not so fast.

You might want to think twice before you give your kitchen a good scrub with a disinfectant. Common cleaning products may be linked to childhood obesity, according to research recently published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal. Scientists now say disinfectants and other multi-surface cleaners could contribute to weight gain in children by altering the gut bacteria of infants.

Canadian researchers said fecal samples showed that 3 and 4-month-old infants exposed weekly to antibacterial cleaners had higher levels of a type of Lachnospiraceae, a gut bacteria that zaps extra energy out of food, USA Today reported. These babies were more likely to be overweight or obese by age 3, the research shows.

Anita Kozyrskyj, senior researcher and a professor of pediatrics at the University of Alberta in Canada, said that findings showed parents who used “eco-friendly” cleaning products had babies with less risk of being overweight by age 3.

“Take it easy when you’re cleaning with disinfectants,” she told HealthDay. “Our observations were at the high end (of cleanliness), with people who were cleaning more than weekly, up to daily.”

Representatives of the cleaning product industry said they were “disappointed at the sensational claims.”

The study ignored other explanations for excess weight, such as when solid foods were given and what kinds of foods were eaten by each child, said Richard Sedlak, executive vice president of technical and international affairs for the American Cleaning Institute.

“Based on our scientific and technical review, the assumptions made by the researchers don’t really hold up,” Sedlak told US News and World Report.

Scientists, meanwhile, stand by their research. They collected fecal samples from 757 infants, aged 3 months to 4 months, and asked the babies’ mothers about their use of household cleaners. They then tracked weight gain in the babies to age 3 years.

Antibiotics and antimicrobial agents can alter any person’s gut makeup (microbiome) by killing off certain species of bacteria, which allows room for others to blossom, they say.

The most famous example is clostridium difficile, a bacteria caused by overuse of antibiotics that can lead to life-threatening diarrhea. Kozyrskyj told US News and World Report, “Disinfectant products used very often, weekly or greater, did cause changes to the infants’ gut bacteria. It caused some bacteria to decline and others to increase.”

If you needed an excuse to not clean the house, or at least wait until you can get less harmful cleansers, you’re welcome.

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