By Assia Mortensen
Obesity, especially in children, could be caused by more than a sedentary lifestyle and a poor diet. The use of antibiotics may contribute to our expanding waistlines, two new studies indicate.
The first study published in the journal Nature looked at changes to internal bacteria in mice after low-dose antibiotics were administered. Profound changes were noted in microbial communities within the gut, which appeared to greatly increase the chances of becoming obese. Fat stores swelled 15% among these mice.
The follow-up study analyzed data regarding 11,000 children with early antibiotic exposure. Body weight was slightly, yet consistently higher in children who were given antibiotics before six months of age, researcher and microbiologist Martin Blaser of New York University said. This study, published in the International Journal of Obesity, indicates that changes in internal bacteria likely have downstream effects on metabolism, which can then lead to obesity, he noted. This research, though promising, is preliminary.
Farm animals, such as cows, are often given antibiotics — not just to fight possible infection, but to enhance growth. The practice has been common in the US and parts of Europe since the 1950s. The reason why animals grew bigger when given low-dose antibiotics has not been fully understood, but researchers are examining whether or not the changes in intestinal bacteria are responsible.
The disruption of internal micro-flora is increasingly thought to be linked to conditions like inflammatory bowel disease, metabolic disorders and immune weakness. Researchers are now questioning the influence of this disruption on certain weight issues as well.
Microorganisms may have beneficial or harmful effects on your health. When bacteria infect the body, causing disease, antibiotics can be necessary to kill the harmful bacteria. However, antibiotics also kill beneficial bacteria in the gut. In such cases, some find probiotics helpful in order to introduce beneficial bacteria back into the system.
Probiotics and their possible benefits were initially recognized in the 1900s by Nobel Laureate Elie Metchnikov, who recognized a link between healthy, long-living Bulgarians and the amount of yogurt they consumed. Yogurt on supermarket shelves today still contains natural bacterial cultures, unless these cultures are killed during pasteurization. Probiotics can also be found in capsule or liquid form, and are also naturally found in many other foods, such as cultured cheeses.
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, Probiotic supplement (containing Lactobacillus acidophilus), 5 – 10 billion CFUs (colony forming units) a day — may help maintain a balance in the digestive system between good and harmful bacteria, such as H. pylori.
Blaser asserts that would be helpful to broaden our concepts about the causes of obesity, taking into account the potential influence of antibiotics.
Looking for Children’s Health Products? Click here to see what iHerb has available. Use Coupon Code WOW123 to get you $10 off any first time order with a $40 minimum purchase or $5 off orders less than $40.
Hristio Boytchev; Early use of antibiotics linked to obesity, research finds; Washington Post; Accessed August 30, 2012.
Anna Edwards; Farmers behind fat epidemic: Study finds links between obesity and antibiotics used to plump up livestock; Daily Mail, UK; Accessed August 30, 2012
Stephen Adams; Giving antibiotics to babies ‘raises obesity risk’; Pub Med, National Institutes of Health; Accessed August 30, 2012.
Steven D. Ehrlich; Gastritis; University of Maryland Medical Center; Accessed August 30, 2012