Antibiotics could make us fat

By Shayna Brouker • Published: November 5th, 2012
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

You may know that taking too many antibiotics can render your body’s natural defenses weaker. Now the latest science shows these medicines have another unintended consequence — they could make you fat, too. Farmers have used antibiotics to fatten their livestock and these medications could have the same effect on humans. New research published in the journal Nature found that antibiotic use in childhood could be linked with obesity later in life.

Data from more than 11,000 children in the United Kingdom showed that those treated with antibiotics in their first six months of life were more likely to be overweight at 10, 20 and 38 months of age. More research is needed, but the two studies combined build a case for what farmers have known for years: Antibiotics are fattening.

The theory is that antibiotics disrupt digestion, causing food to be poorly processed. Antibiotics kill off microbes that regulate the delicate balance of normal bacteria in the gut that metabolize fat … leading to significant weight gain. That’s great news for farmers trying to make a bottom dollar, but not for your bottom, or your overall health.

For example, scientists discovered that antibiotics have been killing off a beneficial bacterium called Helicobacter pylori (HEL-ick-o-back-tur pie-LO-ree), resulting in an increase in reflux diseases by upsetting the regulation of hormones and p-H levels. What’s more, kids who have the bacteria enjoy lower risks of childhood asthma, allergic rhinitis and skin allergies than those without it. H. pylori might also influence ghrelin (GRELL-in), which helps regulate fat development and hunger — another clue to the role antibiotics play in obesity.

So try to take antibiotics only when you need them and let your body build up its natural defenses. It’s amazing what the immune system can do for itself.