Are Antimicrobial Cleaning Products Making Children Fat? New Study Says Yes


Everyday household cleaners may be contributing to obesity in children by altering their gut microbiome, a new study says.

Published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, researchers examined 757 infants and found that babies exposed to household disinfectants had a higher body mass index (BMI) by the time they were three years old than those that lived in homes where more eco-friendly products were used. 1

This study followed children from the time they were in the womb until they were three years old. Babies were twice as likely to have obesity-related bacteria at three or four months of age if living in homes where antimicrobial cleaners were used at least once a week compared to homes that used cleaners less frequently.

Specifically, children in homes where disinfectants were used more often had a higher abundance of the Lachnospiraceae family, and reduced abundance of bacteria from the Enterobacteriaceae family and the Haemophilus genus. Higher levels of Lachnospiraceae caught the scientists' attention because this particular family has previously been associated with higher body fat levels and insulin resistance. [2,3]

This study concluded, “exposure to household disinfectants was associated with a higher BMI at the of age 3, mediated by gut microbial composition at age 3 to 4 months.” 1 Meaning, it’s time to clean out the household products closet! This study adds to the growing evidence that we need to rethink our relationship with bacteria.

Why We Should be ‘Toxiphobes’ Instead of Germaphobes

The obesity epidemic is so widespread and pervasive that many scientists believe it can’t solely be blamed on poor lifestyle choices - it appears to be more complicated than simply eating poorly and not exercising enough. Especially, since childhood obesity is on the rise. This has scientists looking for clues as to why children are gaining weight, and the answer seems to lie in the gut microbiome. 4

When there is low diversity or richness in a person’s gut microbiome, there’s an increased likelihood of suffering from metabolic issues that can lead to being overweight. The gut microbiome is responsible for many metabolic functions and when it lacks diversity, these fundamental metabolic functions are impacted. 5 While these hypotheses need more research to identify exact mechanistic causes, a clear pattern is already emerging.

More and more, science suggests that we should be ‘toxiphobes’ instead of germaphobes. Most of the bacteria living in and on us are not harmful, they are actually helpful. We have symbiotic relationships with trillions of microorganisms. The richest, most profound ecosystem, by far, is living in our guts.

Until recently, we’ve been unknowingly preventing these beneficial bacteria from doing their jobs, using harsh cleaning products is a perfect example of this. It’s time we stop.

Choose Eco-Friendly Cleaning Products

Recently, a specific antimicrobial agent called triclosan made headlines after researchers found it was wreaking havoc on our gut microbiomes and ultimately causing us harm. 6 There has been a rapid response by manufacturers to pull this chemical from their products and off shelves.

But how many more harmful antimicrobial disinfectants are in our cleaning supplies that we aren’t aware of, yet?

We’ve been unknowingly waging war against bacteria in our homes and on our bodies, but now it’s time to stop.

We know better now.

While eco-friendly products are usually boasting their environmentally friendly benefits, it appears that these benefits extend to the environment for the microorganisms living in your gut. Choose eco-friendly products, such as vinegar solutions, for you and your family’s health. Your microbes will thank you.

  1. http://www.cmaj.ca/content/190/37/E1097

  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27217482

  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25283478

  4. http://www.cmaj.ca/content/190/37/E1095

  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5082693/

  6. https://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm205999.htm