Is Your Antibiotic Making You Fat?
Two interesting “ages” came about after World War II. The first was the “antiobiotic age” from 1945-1955, thanks to the discovery and use of penicillin. Coincidentally, a new age came about around that same time: the obesity age.
While much has been (rightly) made of the alarming increases in overweight and obesity rates doubling and tripling since 1985, studies show that the trend actually started back as early as the end of World War II.1 Yep, right in that “antibiotic age” zone.
Coincidence? Not according to a recent study,2 which poses the question: have antibiotics contributed to the rising obesity epidemic? As researchers point out, there is a long history of research into the relationship between antibiotics and weight gain—and the news is grim.
As it turns, the medical community has been less than forthcoming about the impact antibiotics have on your health, especially your gut. And research is telling us that the damage isn’t limited to your GI system; your waistline and overall health are also at risk.
See, while antibiotics do work to take out harmful bacteria, they “take out” a lot of the good stuff as well. First on the list is the healthy microflora in the gut. These probiotics have been shown to play many roles in the body, including healthy digestion3-9 and, yes, weight loss.10-12 By creating a probiotic deficiency via antibiotics, you impair your body’s ability to properly digest while also possibility thwarting metabolism and weight management.
Similarly, long-term use of antiobiotics has been shown to create a biotin deficiency. Also known as vitamin B7, biotin has been shown to lower blood sugar levels, promote more effective glucose storage after meals, and even enhance insulin sensitivity.13-14 As we know, blood sugar levels, glucose, and insulin sensitivity/resistance have all been tied to weight gain.
Clearly a healthy gut is critical for healthy weight and a healthy life overall. This spells bad news for the four out of five Americans who are prescribed antibiotics every year.15 This isn’t surprising when you consider that 13 percent of all doctor’s visits in the U.S. results in a prescription for an antibiotic.16
Fortunately, there are several things you can do to ensure that these medications don’t wreak havoc with your metabolism and your weight. First of all, if/when your doctor prescribes an antibiotic, ask them if it is absolutely necessary, and what other options there may be. If it is for a virus, don’t even bother, as they only work on bacterial infections, not viruses.
Second, work hard to prevent the need for antibiotics in the first place. This means boosting and preserving your immune system with tried and true solutions, including eating a healthy diet, reducing stress, taking vitamin D3 and antioxidants, and getting regular and adequate sleep.
Finally, take a high-quality probiotic every day. Not only will it keep good flora in your gut, but probiotics have been found to be beneficial for virtually every aspect of health, from weight maintenance and immunity to brain and digestive health.17-21
1. Komios J and Brabec M. The evolution of BMI values of US adults: 1882-1986. VOX CEPR’s Policy Portal. 2010 August 31.
2. Podolsky SH. 2017. Historical perspective on the rise and fall and rise and antiobiotics and human weight gain. Ann Intern Med. 2017;166(2):133-8.
3. Neufeld KM, et al. Neurogastroenterol Motil. 2011 Mar;23(3):255-64:e119.
4. Eutamene H, et al. Gut 2007 Nov;56(11):1495-7.
5. Guerra PV, et al. World J Gastroenterol. 2011 Sep 14;17(34):3916-21.
6. Waller PA, et al. Scand J Gastroenterol. 2011 Sep;46(9):1057-64.
7. An HM, et al. Nutr J. 2010 Feb 5;9:5.
8. Yang YX, et al. World J Gastroenterol. 2008 Oct 28;14(40):6237-43.
9. Jafari E, et al. Arch Iran Med. 2014 Jul;17(7):466-70.
10. Frazier TH, et al. J Parenter Enteral Nutr. 2011;35(5 Suppl):14S-20S.
11. Kallus SJ, et al. J Clin Gastroenterol. 2012;46(1):16-24.
12. Raybould H. J Physiol. 2012;590(3):441-6.
13. Kouzi SA, et al. Front Biosci (Elite Ed). 2015 Jan 1;7:94-106.
14. Lazo de la Vega-Monroy ML, et al. J Nutr Biochem. 2013 Jan;24(1):169-77.
15. Hicks LA, et al. U.S. Outpatient antibiotic prescribing, 2010. N Engl J Med. 2013;368:1461-2.
16. Fleming-Dutra KE, et al. Prevalence of inappropriate antibiotic prescriptions among US ambulatory care visits, 2010-2011. JAMA. 2016;315(17):1864-73.
17. Tillisch K, et al. Gastroenterology. 2013 Mar 5. doi: 10.1053/j.gastro.2013.02.043. [Epub ahead of print.]
18. Bravo JA, et al. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 2011 Sep 20;108(38):16050-5.
19. Neufeld KM, et al. Neurogastroenterol Motil. 2011 Mar;23(3):255-64:e119.
20. Kallus SJ, et al. J Clin Gastroenterol. 2012;46(1):16-24.
21. Raybould H. J Physiol. 2012;590(3):441-6.