Research finds link between antibiotics and obesity - Fox 2 News Headlines

Research finds link between antibiotics and obesity

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By Deena Centofanti
FOX 2 News Health Reporter


SOUTHFIELD, Mich. -- They're one of the most over prescribed germ killers.  Now new research is linking antibiotics with obesity.  So what can you do to reduce the risk?

Antibiotics are often a doctor's first line of defense against an infection, but now science is discovering the down side of the drug.  In the lab, researchers found antibiotics caused rats to fatten up.  So what about humans?

"A separate study had looked at early use of antibiotics in infants and risk of obesity at three years old, and what they found is that there was an increased risk of obesity if children were exposed to antibiotics early in life," said naturopath Jennifer Green from Beaumont Hospital. (pictured above)

It's preliminary research, but Green said it may reveal a complicated connection.  Antibiotics change the mix of microbes in the gut, which alters how our bodies use fuel.

"So what happens is the antibiotics change the type of gut bacteria that are living in us and what that does is that will increase the amount of something called short chain fatty acids, which make us plumper," Green explained.

The question is how much exposure are we getting to antibiotics and how can we control it.  Prescriptions are the tip of the iceberg.  It's the food supply that concerns Green.

"Unfortunately, as consumers we have no way of knowing whether or not our dairy or our meet contains antibiotics," she said.

Since the 1950s, the FDA has been allowing the use of antibiotics in livestock not only to fatten up the animals, but to fight off disease, helping to cut the price of mass produced meat and dairy argue farmers.  But beyond the obesity risk, there's potentially a real cost.

"Are we creating more antibiotic resistant bacteria by broadly using antibiotics in our livestock because we want to save antibiotics for our critically ill patients," said Green.

Recently, the FDA has announced a voluntary plan to phase out the use of antibiotics in farm animals for non-medical purposes over the next three years.  What do you do until then?  You can shop at farms.  You can ask farmers do they feed their livestock antibiotics?  You can also buy organic meat at the grocery store.  As sales continue to go up, the price of it will go down.

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