How Antibiotics Can Cause Obesity

Antibiotics Causes Obesity

Have you ever felt the little tickle in your throat and thought you might be coming down with something? Do you want to attack the oncoming sickness before it attacks you?

Your first thought might be to visit the doctor or clinic to get some prescribed antibiotics to stop the sickness in its tracks, or at least shorten the agony you are bound to experience. But what you may not realize is that the antibiotics you take to cure yourself may actually be making you sicker in the long run. Studies show that taking antibiotics can contribute to obesity, one of the leading epidemics plaguing the United States (and many other countries) today.

In a report from the BBC, “Young children who are given repeated courses of antibiotics are at greater risk, than those who use fewer drugs, of becoming obese.” These facts were concluded by a study from JAMA Pediatrics which concluded that, “children who had four or more courses (of antibiotics) by the age of two were at a 10% higher risk of being obese.” Although this study makes it clear that antibiotic resistance is not the only detriment to antibiotic overuse, further research needs to be conducted to confirm the validity of the claims.


How Do Antibiotics Lead to Obesity?

According to an article in Scientific American, a 2012 study published in Nature magazine told the story of how researchers fed young mice a steady stream of low-dose antibiotics. The antibiotics changed the makeup of the bacteria in the guts of the mice, which affected how the bacteria broke down the nutrients. These changes caused the, “treated mice to activate more genes that turn carbohydrates into short-chain fatty acids, and they turned on genes related to lipid conversion in the liver.” This ultimately led the mice to gain more weight. This same phenomenon can be seen on farms where animals are fed antibiotics to gain weight as a result.


What Does This Mean for My Family?

This phenomenon is not only believed to be limited to animals, but also transfers to humans. Martin Blaser, a New York University microbiologist also conducted research that confirmed these findings when he studied 11,000 children in the United Kingdom. What he discovered was, “a disproportionate number of children who were overweight by the age of 3, when they took antibiotics within 6 months of birth.”

In Blaser’s book Missing Microbes he outlines, with scientific research that, “We have permanently changed the microbiome. This is leading to some of the modern diseases like obesity, juvenile diabetes, food allergies, asthma, and maybe even autism.”


Ways to Reduce Antibiotic Use

You’re probably wondering: if antibiotics are the culprit, how can I reduce my family’s use of them? The answer is clear. Use antibiotics less!

Interestingly, according to the CDC, nearly half of the antibiotics prescribed in the United States are either unnecessary or not optimally prescribed. To reduce this staggering number, are some tips to reduce your antibiotic use:

  • Use Antibiotics Sparingly – Only use antibiotics when your doctor prescribes them, following the exact dose and length of time prescribed. Also don’t save antibiotics from previous doctors’ visits for future use, or use other peoples’ antibiotics to treat your own ailments. Note: ANTIBIOTICS WILL NOT TREAT VIRAL INFECTIONS
  • Use Proper Hygiene – Prevent illness before it starts by practicing proper hygiene. This includes thoroughly washing your hands with soap and water so you can prevent the spread of germs and harmful bacteria.
  • Eat Food without Antibiotics – “You are what you eat” literally applies here. Even if you aren’t being prescribed antibiotics, eating meat that contains antibiotics can also contaminate your system. Steer clear of foods that contain antibiotics by looking for labels that contain the words, “Raised without Antibiotic or No Antibiotics.” Support restaurants that have pledged to use meat without antibiotics such as Chipotle, Elevation Burger, and Panera Bread.
  • Cook Meals Thoroughly – Make sure food is cooked and handled properly to prevent contamination.
  • Be Proactive with Cold and Flu Viruses – Keep Vira-Calm on hand. Many respiratory infections are caused by viruses and do not respond to antibiotics. Vira-Calm may be taken regularly during cold and flu season to help boost the immune system, or at the first signs of cold and flu.


Although antibiotics were created to benefit our health, their overuse has become a growing health concern, which has been linked to a number of ailments including obesity. The next time you or a family member starts to become sick, think twice before popping an antibiotic. Your wallet and waistline will thank you.

Photo credit: Tony Alter / CC BY 2.0


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