Not to find excuses for obesity, because people do enough of that as it is, but what if the food we are eating is causing obesity because of issues not related to simple nutrition? What if the antibiotics being fed to livestock and pumped into the general population were making us fat? Well, there’s a good chance they are.
Antibiotics aren’t only given to livestock to ward of disease in overcrowded conditions—it is given to them because low doses of such medication over an extended period has another beneficial (in the eyes of meat producers) effect. That effect is weight gain.
Known as subtherapeutic antibiotic therapy (STAT), livestock producers have been using this method of weight gain since the 1950s. Ari LaVaux, with AlterNet, reports that 80 percent of antibiotics bought in the U.S. are bought for this purpose alone.
If they give it to animals to make animals fat, it doesn’t seem like a stretch that they would also make people fat.
A study as early as 1955 showed that antibiotics would cause weight gain in subjects compared with a placebo group. And other research zoning in on antibiotics for children found that these medications may lead to lifelong obesity later in life.
The growing use of antibiotics in livestock animals could be playing a role in the growing obesity trend. But, scientists caution, “correlation does not equal causation,” in other words, just because obesity and antibiotics are linked doesn’t mean the antibiotics in meat are certain to cause obesity.
A growing body of research seems to be pointing towards causation, however. Researchers believe antibiotics affect the way we metabolize food. In one study, for example, antibiotics changed the bacterial balance in the guts of mice. In other words, they changed their natural metabolism and made them fat.
So, antibiotics make pigs, cattle, and mice fat, and we know that they have been “linked” to weight gain in humans, is that enough for causation? Not quite. A threat to the reputation of antibiotics is a threat to the traditional medical establishment. They won’t let their beloved antibiotics go that easily.
Antibiotics kill bacteria; it’s their job. But the body and the digestive system in particular, is filled with many beneficial bacteria, crucial to our optimal health and functioning. So, it stands to reason that antibiotics could alter this delicately balanced ecosystem and lead to many different negative effects—obesity being only one.