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Antibiotics fuel obesity by creating microbe upheavals

Tue, 08/28/2012 - 10:24am
Curious Cat Science and Engineering Blog

Antibiotics fuel obesity by creating microbe upheavals

We aren’t single individuals, but colonies of trillions. Our bodies, and our guts in particular, are home to vast swarms of bacteria and other microbes. This “microbiota” helps us to harvest energy from our food by breaking down the complex molecules that our own cells cannot cope with. They build vitamins that we cannot manufacture. They ‘talk to’ our immune system to ensure that it develops correctly, and they prevent invasions from other more harmful microbes. They’re our partners in life.

What happens when we kill them?

Farmers have been doing that experiment in animals for more than 50 years. By feeding low doses of antibiotics to healthy farm animals, they’ve found that they could fatten up their livestock by as much as 15 percent.

Ilseung Cho from the New York University School of Medicine has confirmed that hypothesis. By feeding antibiotics to young mice, he has shown that the drugs drastically change the microscopic communities within their guts, and increase the amount of calories they harvest from food. The result: they became fatter.

I continue to believe we are far to quick to medicate. We tremendously overuse anti-biotis and those costs are huge. They often are delays and systemic and given our current behavior we tend to ignore delayed and systemic problems.

The link between the extremely rapid rise in obesity and the overuse of anti-biotics is in need of much more study. It seems a possible contributing factor but there is much more data needed to confirm such a link. And other factors still seem dominant to me: increase in caloric intake and decrease in physical activity.

Related: Science Continues to Explore Causes of Weight GainWaste from Gut Bacteria Helps Host Control WeightHealthy Diet, Healthy Living, Healthy WeightRaising Our Food Without Antibiotics

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