With nearly one in five school-aged children and teens categorized as obese by the medical community, researchers are desperate to get to the root of the epidemic. Some reasons are more obvious than others -- lack of education about nutrition, inactivity/increased screen time, and busy family schedules that leave little time to make nutritious meals.
A new study, however, points to an unlikely culprit of childhood obesity -- household cleaning products. The research, published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, has reason to believe these items could actually alter our gut bacteria, resulting in overweight kiddos.
There has been a lot of focus placed on gut health recently, but the idea that the very cleaning products that are supposed to keep our homes healthy could be messing with our bodies is a real head scratcher. Still, the proof is in the study results.
The research team found that infants being raised in homes where antimicrobial disinfectants are used on a weekly basis were twice as likely to have increased levels of the bacteria Lachnospiraceae as opposed to those who don't use such cleaners. By the time these kids were three years of age, their body mass index (BMI) was higher than that of the kids living in abodes in which the disinfectants weren't used as frequently.
So does this finally give us the rationalization we need to let cleaning fall by the wayside? Not necessarily, but it is just another indicator that we should be more mindful about the stuff we're spritzing and spraying around our homes. As the study points out, while the common multi-surface disinfectants did seem to stir up more of the lachnospiraceae bacteria, laundry detergents that don't contain bacteria-killing ingredients and environmentally-friendly cleaners did not seem to have any effect on the levels.
"We each possess a unique gut microbiota but there are common patterns, there are common microbes that are expected to be found in childhood and in adulthood," says Anita Kozyrskyj, senior author of the study and a University of Alberta pediatrics professorj. "I would say around 3 years of age we have a bacterial composition that we can call our own. And it stays with us for the remainder of our life."
Looking for eco-friendly cleaners to keep your place clean without the risk of upsetting gut bacteria? There are a ton of options on the market that not only work great, but are better for the environment in any number of ways. Mama Suds, developed by, you guessed it, a mama, has a fantastic All Purpose Cleaner Spray made with non-toxic ingredients that leaves behind the warm scent of clove and cinnamon (achieved with essential oils). Baby ECOS Toy and Table Cleaner is another great option when you want to safely clear away dirt and grime from the items your little one touches the most.