Are Antibiotics Making You Fat?

I’m not a fan of antibiotics.

OK, to be clear, it’s not really the antibiotics I hate, it’s the overuse and abuse of them by lazy or overworked doctors and corporate farming operations that really get my goat.

I wrote to you before…on a number of occasions…about the dangerous, and sometimes even deadly fallout from the misuse of these powerful drugs. But just when I think everything that needs to be said on the subject…covering allergies to superbugs…has been said, along comes some new information that has me fuming and at my keyboard while writing to you once again about the devastating effects of antibiotic abuse.

It turns out that antibiotics may be making you, and your kids, fat.

Let me back up for a moment and say that obesity is a complex issue and that no single cause for all cases will ever be found. A poor diet and lack of exercise certainly play an important part in the rising epidemic. But evidence is mounting that our heavy use of antibiotics is also playing a starring roll in a significant percentage of cases.

Recently, microbiologist Dr. Martin Blaser spoke on the issue of antibiotics and obesity at the International Human Microbiome Congress in Vancouver. Dr. Blaser revealed how current experiments he’s conducting on laboratory mice are demonstrating that low-level antibiotics…similar to the regular dosing given to livestock on corporate-farm feed lots…can boost mouse fat by a staggering 40%.

And as if that weren’t shocking enough he also has found that when he combines the low-dose antibiotics with a high-fat diet the jump in fat can skyrocket up to 300%!

The leading theory about why antibiotics have this effect boils down to one thing, gut bacteria… or rather the lack of it once antibiotics wreak havoc on your tummy flora.

You see, when antibiotics go to work they kill off not only disease-causing bacteria but they also destroy the normal gut bacteria that, among other things, help your body metabolize fats. When that process breaks down, you get fat accumulation.

For an illustration of this effect, you don’t need to look any further than those feed lots I mentioned earlier. Any good corporate farmer worth his salt knows that one of the very best ways to fatten up your pigs and chickens fast is to pump them full of antibiotics.

When you combine the antibiotics found in our food supply with the fact that…according to Dr. Blaser…most children in the United States are getting on average 15 courses of antibiotics in their first 15 years alone, you begin to see the problem we have on our hands…and around our bellies.

The takeaways on this one seem pretty clear. Cut back on prescription antibiotic usage by substituting natural alternatives whenever possible. Make the switch to organic antibiotic-free meats. And supplement your likely already compromised gut flora with a quality probiotic supplement.




Martin Blaser, M.D. NYU Langone Medical Center “Disappearing Microbiota and Epidemic Obesity,” Speech given on Thursday March 10, 2011, International Human Microbiome Congress in Vancouver, Canada

“A human gut microbial gene catalogue established by metagenomic sequencing,” Nature 464, 59-65 (4 March 2010), doi:10.1038/nature08821; Received 14 August 2009; Accepted 23 December 2009

“Antibiotics may act as growth/obesity promoters in humans as an inadvertent result of antibiotic pollution?” Med Hypotheses, 2005;64(1):14-6.

“Predictors of inappropriate antibiotic prescribing among primary care physicians,” CMAJ, 2007 Oct 9;177(8):877-83.

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Alice Wessendorf

An enthusiastic believer in the power of natural healing, Alice has spent virtually her entire 17-year career in the natural-health publishing field helping to spread the word.

She is an advocate of self-education and is passionate about the power of group knowledge sharing, like the kind found right here on  Alice loves to share her views on holistic and natural healing as well as her, sometimes contentious, thoughts on the profit-driven inner workings of traditional medicine.

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