Are Antibiotics Making You Fat?

Posted on September 9, 2012

It's a thought provoking question. Do antibiotics cause obesity? New research suggests yes.

Consider this factoid from this Huffinton Post article:

"It is well-known that farmers supply livestock with frequent doses of antibiotics in the guise of 'preventing disease,' but it is also widely known that prolonged antibiotic usage causes such disruption in the digestive tracts of these animals that the food that they eat is not properly assimilated, leading to significant weight gain. Normal bacteria in the gut help animals (and humans) metabolize fat, but the deficiency of these normal bacteria, caused by antibiotic usage, disrupts proper fat metabolism, leading to weight gain. The farmers benefit from being able to sell fatter and heavier meat, even though meat quality is significantly compromised."

The compromised nature of the U.S.'s meat supply, though upsetting in its own right, isn't the point of this blog post. The point is that farmers use antibiotics to fatten up the animals.

Antibiotics fatten up the animals.

Wait, what?

You may now be thinking of all the times you've taken antibiotics in your life, perhaps for sicknesses like colds that didn't even require them. So...what does this mean for people who take antibiotics?

The publication The Week shares research performed by New York University in which 11,500 young children's records were analyzed finding that children who had received antibiotics before 6 months of age were 22% more likely to be overweight by age 3.

Hmm, that's not good.

Researchers also found, according to The Week, that mice given antibiotics put on 15% more body fat than those that weren't.

The evidence is beginning to mount. Antibiotics are seemingly related to weight gain.

But why?

Those researchers studying the gut found that the types of bacteria that flourished in their gut actually changed.

One can only theorize at this point that antibiotics change out gut flora as well. And we receive antibiotics not only from doctors as medicine, but also through non-organic meats. And, yes, we do ingest small amounts of antibiotics with each bite on non-organic meat we eat. But those small amounts add up over time.

Over the next few years, watch for more studies released about the importance of gut health. Gut flora affects everything from cancer, autism, and heart disease, among other conditions, and scientists are only beginning to understand why.

So what can you do? First, if you are sick, consider all of your options. If you decide you need an antibiotic, consider taking probiotic and prebiotic supplements. Probiotics contain living organisms that are beneficial for gut flora and prebiotics are what feed them and help them thrive.

Secondly, swap out your conventional meat, whenever possible, for organic meat. It will cost you more, but you can cut back on other non-essential items, like snacks.

We were told antibiotics would make us healthy and as it turns out they may be making us unhealthy in other regards.

What do you think? Are you surprised by the research? How have antibiotics affected your health both positively and negatively?


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