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Can Antibiotics Make You Fat?

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Animals raised on many of America’s factory farms are pumped with antibiotics to prevent illness and disease caused by the inhumane living conditions on those farms. In the 1940’s, scientists discovered an added benefit to farmers who give their animals antibiotics: those animals put on more weight per pound of feed. When the purpose is to raise animals and make them as fat as possible before going to the slaughterhouse, farmers were no doubt delighted about this unexpected benefit and seized the opportunity to make more money.

But if antibiotics can make animals gain weight, do they have the same effect on humans?
Scientists have recently discovered that small doses of antibiotics promote growth by making small changes to the “gut microbiome.” The gut microbiome consists of billions of microbes that live within an animal’s digestive tract; it is key in regulating health and fighting pathogens. The microbiome also affects the ability of both animals and humans to break down carbohydrates and convert them into body fat.

A team of researchers at NYU released a study looking at the effect of antibiotics on a human’s waistline. The study involved more than 11,000 kids, a third of whom had been prescribed antibiotics to treat an infection before were six months old. The study found the children who had been given antibiotics early in life were 22 percent more likely to be overweight by the age of three than those children who hadn’t been exposed to antibiotics. The study also showed the weight-gain result of antibiotics wore off by the time the children turned seven.

These and other studies of the effect of antibiotics on the gut microbiome give reason to believe exposure to antibiotics, whether prescribed or obtained by eating meat, may affect our waistline as adults. There isn’t sufficient information to scientists to positively link exposure to traces of antibiotics in meat to weight gain, but it also isn’t inconceivable.

If you truly want to be thin and healthy, you must think twice about what you put in your body. Should you choose to eat meat, you must also consider what goes into the bodies of the animals before they go to slaughter. You are, after all, essentially eating what they eat. By choosing organic, grass-fed meat, you are eliminating the possibility of consuming antibiotics given to animals. When organic meat is not available, choose free-range meat as the next best option.

Betty Murray, CN, IFMCP,CHC is a Certified Nutritionist & Certified Functional Medicine Practitioner with the Institute for Functional Medicine, founder of the Dallas-based integrative medical center, Wellness and founder of the Metabolic Blueprint wellness program. Betty’s nutrition counseling practice specializes in metabolic and digestive disorders and weight loss resistance. A master of the biochemistry of the body, Betty teaches her clients how to utilize nutritional interventions to improve their health. Betty is a member of the Institute of Functional Medicine and the National Association of Nutrition Professionals.