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Can Antibiotics Cause Obesity?

Aug 31st, 2012

Credit: Images_of_Money via Flickr under Creative Commons

Credit: Images_of_Money via Flickr under Creative Commons

The medicines we use to heal ourselves may be harming us as well. Two recent studies suggest that exposure to antibiotics may lead to obesity.

According to both studies, the antibiotics we consume are destroying our natural gut flora causing us to put on added weight. The result, however, did not come as such a surprise considering the decades-long practice farmers use of helping cattle, poultry, and pig gain weight by feeding them a steady stream of antibiotics.

The first study showed that antibiotic exposure in mice caused disruptions in their internal microbe populations, leading to changes in the way their bodies process food and regulate metabolism.

Lab mice were fed low doses of antibiotics similar to animals in concentrated animal feeding operations or CAFOs.

The study, which appeared in a recent Nature paper, the mice did not gain weight but their body fat increased fifteen percent. Researchers noted the difference in microbiomes between the control and the experimental mice groups. Surprisingly, changes in genes involved in carbohydrate digestion and cholesterol regulation were observed in mice exposed to antibiotics.

The second study showed that children’s early exposure to antibiotics led to higher body weights.

Researchers gathered data from 11,000 British children. Those who were exposed to antibiotics before reaching their sixth month recorded a higher body mass index.

“Early life antibiotics are changing the microbiome, and its metabolic capabilities, at a critical time in development,” said study author and New York University microbiologist Martin Blaser. “These changes have downstream effects on metabolism, including genes related to energy storage.”

Microbiome is a collective term which refers to the community of amoebae, bacteria, fungi, viruses, and yeasts present in our bodies which aid in metabolic functions. The total number of microbiome in the human body can be as high as 100 trillion.

Certain diseases like cancer, diabetes, heart disease, autism, and obesity have been linked to changes in the microbiome.

With different methods of exposure, the two studies do not prove that that the effects observed in humans and in mice are the same.

The research group will next look into how single dose antibiotic exposure early in life will affect mice and how humans are affected by consuming meat and dairy of antibiotic-fed animals.

Source: VISTA Health Solutions


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