Antibiotics May Be Making Us Fat

August 25, 2011

Before we begin, a warning: take the pills your doctor gives you. If your choice is between being fat or being dead, which option sounds more appealing? Hint: one you can fix by diet and exercise, the other involves your naked body being groped by an old guy in a suit. Yeah, we thought so.

That said, it's possible that over the last 80 years or so, antibiotics have been saving us from nastier bugs while killing off the ones we do want. The human body is chock full of beneficial bacteria: they help us digest food, process air, and have complicated relationships with our hormones. And taking antibiotics pretty much kills everything, even the stuff that was helping us. And that could be doing everything from giving us asthma to messing with our hunger and fullness signals (i.e. porking us out bigtime).

Backing the doc: it wasn't until antibiotics came along that rates of asthma, obesity, and other problems starting rising.

How bad is it? There's one bacterium, Heliobacter pylori, that, okay, gives you stomach ulcers when it runs amok. That's bad. But in research, kids without a good amount of H. pylori had higher incidences of allergic reactions and asthma. Furthermore, H. pylori interacts with ghrelin and leptin, the hormones that tell you that you're hungry and the one that tells you to stop stuffing your pie hole, respectively. Researchers aren't sure how, but without it, they act way, way differently.

Research is still ongoing: nobody’s sure what all these friend bacteria do or whether they can be brought back after getting wiped out. One thing's for sure: eating that yogurt is a better idea than ever.

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