Various past studies have provided evidence that overuse of antibiotics can lead to myriad long-term health problems. Add to that research a recent study linking too much exposure to antibiotics in childhood to weight gain.

A team of researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore found that children who regularly take antibiotics gain weight at a significantly higher rate than children who are less exposed to the drugs.

The study, published in the International Journal of Obesity, involved 160,000 children ages 3 to 18. Conducted in the years 2001 to 2012, the researchers took a note of the height and weight of the subjects during the study. In addition, the researchers calculated the body mass index of the children and compared them against the use of antibiotics in the previous year or earlier. 

The researchers found that a 15-year-old who has received a dose of antibiotic seven or more times during childhood weighed three pounds more than a teenager who has never taken such drug. Nearly 21 percent of the total subjects had taken antibiotics seven or more times during childhood.

“Our models suggest that the effect likely continues into adulthood and the BMI trajectories of children who did and did not receive antibiotics are increasingly diverging at older ages," researcher Brian Schwartz told CBS News. "Although we did not observe children past 18 years, I would bet that this kind of pattern would continue."

Schwartz said the study results do not mean that children should not be given antibiotics at all. Instead, he called for physicians to be more careful when prescribing the drugs to children.