Are Antibiotics making you Gain Weight?

Did you know that antibiotics have been used for decades to fatten up farm animals? Recent research seems to indicate that they may have the same effect on humans, too.

antibiotic capsule


Every year, it seems that something that humanity has long thought to be a medical miracle turns out to actually be causing us great harm. A decade ago, Olestra was hailed as an incredible way to make foods taste great (until it became evident that our inability to process it was potentially lethal).

Just a few years ago, childhood vaccinations were linked to autism (until it turned out that the science behind this connection was flimsy at best). Now, it seems that antibiotics may be causing “diseases of civilization” such as obesity and Type II diabetes. The evidence for this conclusion is still being sifted through and digested, but what has emerged thus far is quite compelling. Discussed below are the how’s and why’s of it all.

False Evidence

Before the actual evidence can be explored, it must be noted that some highly-regarded medical journals have touted a fatally false link of causation in this case. Various medical journals and Wired Magazine reported that the states with the highest incidences of stroke, such as West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Louisiana also have the highest rates of antibiotic prescription.

While this seems like compelling evidence for a link between antibiotics and stroke, it must also be noted that these states also have the consumption rates of fried foods, saturated fats, and trans-fats; three things that have long been concretely linked to strokes and heart disease.

Valid Evidence

A better study, would be one conducted with a placebo in a double-blind manner. Luckily, there was just such a study performed in 1954. In it, Navy recruits who were given daily doses of antibiotics actually gained twice as much weight over a 7 week period as those who were given a placebo. Compelling evidence, but hardly conclusive.

Another interesting fact is that antibiotics kill off not only disease-causing bacteria, but also the “good” kind of bacteria that helps regulate how your body works. Much of this bacteria is located in your gut and aids in the digestive process. In fact, a recent study found that children who were given antibiotics regularly do not have H.pylori in their stomachs by the age of 18. H.Pylori raises your risk of ulcers, but also seems to help you feel full. Without it, your body is tricked into overeating.

The good bacteria in your body also play an indirect (or occasionally, direct) role in your immune system. Eradicating this bacteria makes you more susceptible to both chronic and acute illnesses. H.Pylori, the recently mentioned bacteria that no longer exists in the bodies of most children treated with antibiotics, has actually been shown to prevent diseases such as asthma in mice. Mice that were re-“infected” with it also lost weight and were less likely to become obese.

Do Antibiotics Make you Fat?

Overuse of antibiotics has long been decried for its ability to create superbugs amongst the general population. Now, it seems that there are other complications. While the evidence is hardly strong enough to warrant abstaining from antibiotics in life-threatening situations, their use should be limited. If you’re worried about the damage that they may have already done to your body, there does seem to be a silver lining. Consuming probiotics tends to have the reverse effect.

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