Could you be gaining weight because of antibiotics? Often we get prescribed antibiotics at some point in our lives. As a kid I myself can remember getting a few doses for several different reasons. But is this creating a long term problem in regards to obesity? Each year over 250 million doses of antibiotics are being taken each year. If farmers are giving our meat sources antibiotics to make them grow larger, wouldn't the same thing happen if we were given antibiotics especially when they are not really needed in some cases? So we get antibiotics for sore throats, earaches, and countless other reasons; in addition the antibiotics are in our main food sources. Is this causing a rise in obesity?
Dr. Martin Blaser, Director of the Human Microbiome Program at New York University has spent years researching weight gain and antibiotic use.
One of Dr. Blaser’s first tests was to see what would happen if antibiotics were fed to mice that are In his research, Dr. Blaser found that when he compared two groups of mice which were given the same type/amount of food, one group which had added antibiotics while the other group did not have antibiotics; he antibiotic fed mice gained 50% more fat
When he then experimented to include the mice being fed a high-fat diet, both groups became fat. However, those mice that were on a high-fat diet with antibiotics became even significantly fatter.
“Interestingly, for the women out there—this problem was more pronounced in female mice. The male mice didn’t have as big of a problem. They actually got more muscle as well as fat. Which may explain some of the differences we are seeing between the genders,” says Dr. Oz.
Dr. Blaser explains that not only does feeding antibiotics to these animals result in increased body fat, but that it also changes the bacteria in the gut—an important finding that could explain how antibiotics may cause weight gain.
Another interesting tip, the males did not gain more fat but instead gained more muscle. This is something to pay attention to simply because we know already that women tend to have more fat then men.
According to Dr. Oz:
Antibiotics could be affecting how much and how easily some of us gain weight due to 3 possible ways antibiotics may be changing our bodies:
Antibiotic-induced change #1: Antibiotics make you metabolize food differently
According to Dr. Oz, taking antibiotics may be selecting for certain bacteria that actually causes your body to retain more calories from eating a specific amount of food in comparison to normal gut bacteria that will cause your body to retain less calories from the same amount of food. In other words, your metabolism may be determined by the type of bacteria in your gut. And, being exposed to antibiotics may be selecting for the wrong type of bacteria that then causes increased calorie retention.
Antibiotic-induced change #2: Antibiotics can cause your cravings
Research is finding that the type of bacteria you have in your gut may be responsible for feelings for cravings of certain high-calorie foods. If antibiotics wipe out normal bacteria that do not induce cravings, antibiotics may then be selecting for bad bacteria that induce food cravings that lead to weight gain.
Antibiotic-induced change #3: Antibiotics increase the number of fat cells
“It turns out that antibiotics actually changes the number of fat cells in your body,” says Dr. Oz who explains that this is significant when you are young and your body is developing into one that has more fat cells in it than the body of someone who is young and not being exposed to antibiotics.
This point is supported by Dr. Blaser’s research that associates childhood antibiotic exposure with the potential for growing up into a fat adult.
“We studied a big group of kids, and some of them had antibiotics early in life and some of them didn’t. We looked at them when they were three, and then when they were seven. The kids who got antibiotics the first six months of life had higher indices of fat in both of those ages,” says Dr. Blaser. “What a kid’s weight is when they are five years old is a big determinant of what they are going to be like when they are fourteen. And fourteen is a big determinant of what they are going to be like when they are an adult.”
Dr. Blaser also points out that when it comes to antibiotic exposure from eating chicken that has been fed antibiotics, the previously held belief that the antibiotics are gone by the time you cook and eat the meat is not always true. It is not known if antibiotic fed livestock have the same effect on us as antibiotics given to us directly during childhood.
Antibiotics are a necessary part of medicine when they are needed, but that too often they are over-prescribed.
Dr. Oz recommends two things we can do for now about antibiotic exposure:
1. Stop demanding antibiotics from your doctor when you have a cold—they do not help.
2. Eat probiotics for two weeks beginning the first day of taking any antibiotic—to replenish the good bacteria in your gut.
Check out Dr. Martin J. Blaser's book: