The Obesity – Antibiotics Connection

bacteria in the gut

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People who received antibiotics as babies are more likely to be obese. This is a possible conclusion from a fascinating study that was published in the International Journal of Obesity earlier this week. Why would antibiotics have such an effect?  One hypothesis is that the antibiotics negatively affect gut microflora (the good germs that live in our body). What you need to know:

Our body is host to billions of organisms that live in our intestines. This colony of bacteria, viruses, and fungi are collectively known as the microbiome. There are ten times more of these organisms in our gut than there are cells composing the entire human body!

The microbiome helps in food digestion, help build immunity, and even manufacture vitamins for us (vitamin K and biotin). Apparently, antibiotics are like a nuclear holocaust in the intestines, killing off and maiming various populations of these beneficial organisms. The result is a decreased efficiency in our metabolism and the storage of excess fat.

Why should we worry?

Because antibiotics are being fed to us through the food chain from a very young age. Think about your steak, burger, or chicken nuggets. Livestock and poultry are routinely given antibiotics in their feed mix, as a preventative measure, not because they are sick. This is because they do tend to get sick because of the cramped growing conditions in CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations) aka factory farms.

More studies are needed in order to affirm the hypothesis, but this just one more reason to be worried about modern food production processes and their unintended consequences.

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  • MrBillWest

    Hold on a minute! Your conclusions are not supported by the study and are irresponsible. The study involved prescribed antibiotics, not exposure through food. A prescribed antibiotic is orders of magnitude higher than what persists in food. Dose matters significantly.

    Stating that antibiotics in food make use fat is not supported by the study. It is the meat and the amount of it that will make you fat.

    They way we are using antibiotics in animals is already bad. Most people get that. Making exaggerated and false claims only provides skeptics another reason to discount your opinion.

  • Frank Voice

    Hemi has finally snapped…sailed off the edge.

    Now he openly states untruths secure in the knowledge his followers are too ignorant (or too intoxicated with the koolaid) to register the insult.

    This blog has never been anything more than opinionated misinformation. Sensationalized misinformation…because that’s what sells…and that’s what a sell-out does.

    Carry on Hemi.

  • Just politely look away

    OK, so this article wouldn’t begin to get past the fact checkers but it is what Hemi personally believes so that makes it important. Science isn’t everything. In fact, Oprah and Dr. Oz would be homeless if science counted for anything. Normal people won’t know the difference so it really doesn’t matter, does it? Lighten up and let Hemi work his agenda. He doesn’t seem to be embarrassed so we shouldn’t be either. Of course, you may not want to incorporate Hemi’s pop science in your professional practice with real clients (you know, malpractice suits and all).

  • Jim Cooper

    Further, the increase in weight gain was small (0.2 lb) and was also associated with maternal smoking and lack of breast feeding. Not exactly a clear-cut case.

  • Brian

    I was actually excited that he was going to talk about how doctors unnecessarily prescribe anitboitics, but he skillfully changed the subject into that of how meat will kill you. Again. Wow. (I agree that the practice in antibiotics in animals is wrong, and shouldn’t be done, and we shouldn’t be getting our meat from those sources… vote with your dollars folks. Find a responsible local producer.)

    Then I thought he might make the article a bit better by talking about how making your own sauerkraut or kombucha is a way to restore some gut biota, but no dice. I was actually surprised that he hasn’t jumped on the latest egg yolk study comparing them to cigarettes. (poorly done study, by the way, and really says nothing. Just another statin funded doctor trying to sell more drugs.)

  • Jeff

    Junk food will make you fat but junk science will rot your brain. Extra weight you can lose, being too full of yourself just feeds on itself until your head explodes. Poor Hemi. Pop goes the weasel.