Early, frequent antibiotic use linked to childhood obesity – LA Times

Early, frequent antibiotic use linked to childhood obesity - LA Times

Parents and pediatricians will often reach for antibiotics to treat middle ear infections, strep throat, fevers and other common ailments of childhood. But new research suggests that doing so, and prescribing broad-spectrum antibiotics in particular, increases those children’s risk of obesity, at least in early childhood.

A new study finds that babies who got broad-spectrum antibiotics in their first two years of life, or who were prescribed four or more courses of antibiotics in that period, were more likely to be obese at some point between their their second and fifth birthdays than were those who had taken no antibiotics, or who were treated with medications designed to target a narrow spectrum of disease-causing bacteria.

Broad-spectrum antibiotics — including amoxicillin, tetracycline, streptomycin, moxifloxacin and ciprofloxacin — are intended for treatment of major systemic infections, in cases where the bacteria causing the illness has not been identified, or where a patient is under attack by a strain of bacteria resistant to standard antibiotics. While they can be highly effective, their antibiotic action is indiscriminate, and beneficial bacteria in the body are often killed off as collateral damage.

The latest study tapped the medical records of 64,580 babies and children in and around Philadelphia. It was published Monday in the journal JAMA Pediatrics.

The heightened risk of obesity linked to antibiotic use was not huge: Babies who got wide-spectrum antibiotics in their first two years were about 11% more likely to be obese between 2 and 5 than were those who got no such drugs. Babies who had four or more courses of any antibiotics in the first two years were also 11% more likely to be obese in early childhood than those who’d had fewer exposures to antibiotics.

But among children who had four or more antibiotics prescriptions, including at least one wide-spectrum antibiotic, the risk of obesity rose to 17%. And the earlier a baby’s exposure to wide-spectrum antibiotic medications, the more likely he or she was, on average, to be obese between age 3 and 5.

via Early, frequent antibiotic use linked to childhood obesity – LA Times.


Early Antibiotics Change Gut Microbes, Fuel Obesity – Phenomena: Not Exactly Rocket Science

by Ed Yong

What’s the short version?

There are tens of trillions of microbes in our guts, which are important for our digestion and our health. The antibiotics that we take to kill off disease-causing bacteria also indiscriminately nuke these beneficial bugs. Now, a new set of experiments in mice have shown that low, regular doses of antibiotics at an early age can disrupt these microbe communities, leading to weight gain later in life. The increase in body weight was small, but compounded by a high-fat diet. If the results apply to humans, they would add to the large body of evidence suggesting that antibiotics should be used more carefully in infants and children.

“I’m not saying people should never take antibiotics,” says Martin Blaserfrom the NYU Langone Medical Centre, who led the study. “But we need to be more judicious. Antibiotics can have long-term consequences. I hope that knowledge will enter the examining room, so that parents don’t demand antibiotics and doctors are more cautious about using them.”via Early Antibiotics Change Gut Microbes, Fuel Obesity – Phenomena: Not Exactly Rocket Science.

U.S. drug firms move to bar antibiotic use in livestock growth – chicagotribune.com

U.S. drug firms move to bar antibiotic use in livestock growth

P.J. Huffstutter

CHICAGO (Reuters) – U.S. regulators on Wednesday said that 25 out of 26 drugmakers that sell antibiotics used in livestock feed for growth enhancement have agreed to follow new guidelines that will make it illegal to use their products to create beefier cattle, heftier hogs and other outsized animals.

The companies – which include Eli Lilly & Co’s Elanco Animal Health unit, Bayer Healthcare LLC’s animal health division and Zoetis Inc – have agreed to start the process of removing any growth promotion claims on their products’ labeling, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The FDA announced the guidelines in December, as part of an ongoing bid to stem a surge in human resistance to certain antibiotics. Although the guidelines are voluntary, agency officials have said they expect drugmakers to fully adhere and to narrow their products’ use.

This labeling shift will ultimately mean that while farmers, ranchers and other agriculture groups can continue to use such drugs to treat sick animals, they will be banned from using them for promoting growth in livestock, according to regulators.

“The FDA and drug makers appear to have passed the first big test of the agency’s voluntary approach,” said Laura Rogers, director of human health and industrial farming for The Pew Charitable Trusts, adding “there’s a lot more to do.”

Critics argue that the guidelines give drugmakers too much discretion in policing their own use of antibiotics and provide no mechanism for enforcement, and were unconvinced by Wednesday’s announcement.

“This plan is likely to lead to label changes, not a reduction in use,” said Avinash Kar, health attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Public health experts have become worried in recent years about the emergence of new strains of bacteria that cannot be controlled by a wide range of current antibiotics.

Some suspect that these “superbugs” have developed as a result of livestock being fed low-levels of antibiotics throughout much of their lives, creating an environment for bacteria to mutate and develop resistance to drugs that are key to human health.

The companies have also agreed to require such antibiotics, which are typically added to animals’ food or water, to be made available only through a veterinary prescription or via a veterinary feed directive status – instead of being available for sale over-the-counter at feed stores and other retail outlets, according to regulators.

On Wednesday, the agency said there are currently 26 drug companies and a total of 283 affected products or applications that fall under the voluntary guidance.

Of the 26, Pharmaq AS was the only company that declined to follow the voluntary guidelines. Pharmaq makes an antimicrobial powder used to treat certain conditions in salmon, trout and catfish. The Norwegian company’s product already is for therapeutic uses only, but is available over the counter, according to nutritionists.

The full list of companies can be found on the FDA site here: http://www.fda.gov/AnimalVeterinary/SafetyHealth/AntimicrobialResistance/JudiciousUseofAntimicrobials/ucm390738.htm

(This story has been corrected in paragraph nine to clarify how resistance to antibiotics develops in bacteria)

(Reporting by P.J. Huffstutter, editing by Ros Krasny and Bernard Orr)

via U.S. drug firms move to bar antibiotic use in livestock growth – chicagotribune.com.

The Fat Drug – NYTimes.com

The Fat Drug


March 8, 2014

IF you walk into a farm-supply store today, you’re likely to find a bag of antibiotic powder that claims to boost the growth of poultry and livestock. That’s because decades of agricultural research has shown that antibiotics seem to flip a switch in young animals’ bodies, helping them pack on pounds. Manufacturers brag about the miraculous effects of feeding antibiotics to chicks and nursing calves. Dusty agricultural journals attest to the ways in which the drugs can act like a kind of superfood to produce cheap meat.

But what if that meat is us? Recently, a group of medical investigators have begun to wonder whether antibiotics might cause the same growth promotion in humans. New evidence shows that America’s obesity epidemic may be connected to our high consumption of these drugs. But before we get to those findings, it’s helpful to start at the beginning, in 1948, when the wonder drugs were new — and big was beautiful.

That year, a biochemist named Thomas H. Jukes marveled at a pinch of golden powder in a vial. It was a new antibiotic named Aureomycin, and Mr. Jukes and his colleagues at Lederle Laboratories suspected that it would become a blockbuster, lifesaving drug. But they hoped to find other ways to profit from the powder as well. At the time, Lederle scientists had been searching for a food additive for farm animals, and Mr. Jukes believed that Aureomycin could be it. After raising chicks on Aureomycin-laced food and on ordinary mash, he found that the antibiotics did boost the chicks’ growth; some of them grew to weigh twice as much as the ones in the control group.

Mr. Jukes wanted more Aureomycin, but his bosses cut him off because the drug was in such high demand to treat human illnesses. So he hit on a novel solution. He picked through the laboratory’s dump to recover the slurry left over after the manufacture of the drug. He and his colleagues used those leftovers to carry on their experiments, now on pigs, sheep and cows. All of the animals gained weight. Trash, it turned out, could be transformed into meat.


You may be wondering whether it occurred to anyone back then that the powders would have the same effect on the human body. In fact, a number of scientists believed that antibiotics could stimulate growth in children. From our contemporary perspective, here’s where the story gets really strange: All this growth was regarded as a good thing. It was an era that celebrated monster-size animals, fat babies and big men. In 1955, a crowd gathered in a hotel ballroom to watch as feed salesmen climbed onto a scale; the men were competing to see who could gain the most weight in four months, in imitation of the cattle and hogs that ate their antibiotic-laced food. Pfizer sponsored the competition.

In 1954, Alexander Fleming — the Scottish biologist who discovered penicillin — visited the University of Minnesota. His American hosts proudly informed him that by feeding antibiotics to hogs, farmers had already saved millions of dollars in slop. But Fleming seemed disturbed by the thought of applying that logic to humans. “I can’t predict that feeding penicillin to babies will do society much good,” he said. “Making people larger might do more harm than good.”

Nonetheless, experiments were then being conducted on humans. In the 1950s, a team of scientists fed a steady diet of antibiotics to schoolchildren in Guatemala for more than a year,while Charles H. Carter, a doctor in Florida, tried a similar regimen on mentally disabled kids. Could the children, like the farm animals, grow larger? Yes, they could.

Mr. Jukes summarized Dr. Carter’s research in a monograph on nutrition and antibiotics: “Carter carried out a prolonged investigation of a study of the effects of administering 75 mg of chlortetracycline” — the chemical name for Aureomycin — “twice daily to mentally defective children for periods of up to three years at the Florida Farm Colony. The children were mentally deficient spastic cases and were almost entirely helpless,” he wrote. “The average yearly gain in weight for the supplemented group was 6.5 lb while the control group averaged 1.9 lb in yearly weight gain.”

article continues at via The Fat Drug – NYTimes.com.

F.D.A. Restricts Antibiotics Use for Livestock – NYTimes.com

F.D.A. Restricts Antibiotics Use for Livestock

WASHINGTON — The Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday put in place a major new policy to phase out the indiscriminate use of antibiotics in cows, pigs and chickens raised for meat, a practice that experts say has endangered human health by fueling the growing epidemic of antibiotic resistance.

This is the agency’s first serious attempt in decades to curb what experts have long regarded as the systematic overuse of antibiotics in healthy farm animals, with the drugs typically added directly into their feed and water. The waning effectiveness of antibiotics — wonder drugs of the 20th century — has become a looming threat to public health. At least two million Americans fall sick every year and about 23,000 die from antibiotic-resistant infections.

“This is the first significant step in dealing with this important public health concern in 20 years,” said David Kessler, a former F.D.A. commissioner who has been critical of the agency’s track record on antibiotics. “No one should underestimate how big a lift this has been in changing widespread and long entrenched industry practices.”

The change, which is to take effect over the next three years, will effectively make it illegal for farmers and ranchers to use antibiotics to make animals grow bigger. The producers had found that feeding low doses of antibiotics to animals throughout their lives led them to grow plumper and larger. Scientists still debate why. Food producers will also have to get a prescription from a veterinarian to use the drugs to prevent disease in their animals.

Federal officials said the new policy would improve health in the United States by tightening the use of classes of antibiotics that save human lives, including penicillin, azithromycin and tetracycline. Food producers said they would abide by the new rules, but some public health advocates voiced concerns that loopholes could render the new policy toothless.

Health officials have warned since the 1970s that overuse of antibiotics in animals was leading to the development of infections resistant to treatment in humans. For years, modest efforts by federal officials to reduce the use of antibiotics in animals were thwarted by the powerful food industry and its substantial lobbying power in Congress. Pressure for federal action has mounted as the effectiveness of drugs important for human health has declined, and deaths from bugs resistant to antibiotics have soared.

Under the new policy, the agency is asking drug makers to change the labels that detail how a drug can be used so they would bar farmers from using the medicines to promote growth.

The changes, originally proposed in 2012, are voluntary for drug companies. But F.D.A. officials said they believed that the companies would comply, based on discussions during the public comment period. The two drug makers that represent a majority of such antibiotic products — Zoetis and Elanco — have already stated their intent to participate, F.D.A. officials said. Companies will have three months to tell the agency whether they will change the labels, and three years to carry out the new rules.

Additionally, the agency is requiring that licensed veterinarians supervise the use of antibiotics, effectively requiring farmers and ranchers to obtain prescriptions to use the drugs for their animals.

via F.D.A. Restricts Antibiotics Use for Livestock – NYTimes.com.

A Science Project With Legs – NYTimes.com

A Science Project With Legs


Paula Bronstein/Getty Images

The average teenage boy is likely to have an interest in chicken only when it hits his dinner plate.

But after a trip to Israel for his sister’s bat mitzvah, Jack Millman came back to New York wondering whether the higher costs of kosher foods were justified.

“Most consumers perceive of kosher foods as being healthier or cleaner or somehow more valuable than conventional foods, and I was interested in whether they were in fact getting what they were paying for,” said Mr. Millman, 18 and a senior at the Horace Mann School in New York City.

That question started him on a yearlong research project to compare the prevalence of antibiotic-resistant E. coli bacteria on four types of chickens: those raised conventionally; organically; without antibiotics, and those slaughtered under kosher rules. “Every other week for 10 weeks, I would go and spend the entire Saturday buying chicken,” he said. “We had it specifically mapped out, and we would buy it and put it on ice in industrial-strength coolers given to us by the lab, and ship it out.”

All told, Mr. Millman and his mother, Ann Marks, gathered 213 samples of chicken drumsticks from supermarkets, butcher shops and specialty stores in the New York area.

Now they and several scientists have published a study based on the project in the journal F1000 Research. The results were surprising.

Almost twice as many of the kosher chicken samples tested positive for antibiotic-resistant E. coli as did the those from conventionally raised birds. And even the samples from organically raised chickens and those raised without antibiotics did not significantly differ from the conventional ones.

“I was pretty sure that blessings wouldn’t protect chicken from antibiotic resistance,” said Lance B. Price, a professor at George Washington University and an expert on antibiotic resistance who worked with Mr. Millman on the study. (They were introduced by Mr. Millman’s uncle, Bruce Hungate, a biology professor at Northern Arizona University, who suggested the project and is also listed as an author.)

“But it was a surprise to me,” Dr. Price continued, “that we found as much antibiotic-resistant E. coli in chicken that was organic and raised without antibiotics.”

The contamination does not mean the chicken is dangerous to eat. Generally, poultry is safe if handled carefully and cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit, according to guidelines from the Agriculture Department.

About three-quarters of the antibiotics sold in this country are used in animal husbandry, primarily as feed additives, and concerns are growing about how the practice is contributing to rising antibiotic resistance.

Organic chicken is raised without antibiotics — at least from the time the chicks are two days old. But before that, they can be treated with antibiotics, and it is common for chicken breeders to inject eggs with antibiotics to prevent diseases and to administer antibiotics to chicks right after they hatch.

That might be one reason so much resistant E. coli was found on the organic chicken in the study, said Thomas B. Harding Jr., an organic farming consultant who reviewed the study at The New York Times’s request. Or the chicken might have been contaminated in processing, he said — a potential problem also identified in the study.

Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports, has tested thousands of samples of chicken for contamination and antibiotic resistance. “Over all, having an organic meat be resistant to one antibiotic is pretty common,” said Urvashi Rangan, the director of the consumer safety and sustainability group at Consumer Reports. “When we start to see resistance to multiple antibiotics, that’s when we would be concerned.”

Ms. Rangan agreed that the organic chicken in the sample might have been processed in facilities that also process conventional chicken. “Slaughter plants with split operations where someone didn’t properly clean a piece of equipment, things like that,” she said.

via A Science Project With Legs – NYTimes.com.

The 5 Best Foods to Eat After Taking Antibiotics || healwithfood.org

After taking antibiotics, it is important to restore the ‘good bacteria’ in your intestines. If you prefer to do that naturally through diet rather than resorting to supplements, you’ll be happy to learn that there are plenty of foods that can help restore your intestinal flora. The rest of this article provides a detailed list of some of the best foods to eat after taking antibiotics.

The 5 Best Foods to Eat After Taking Antibiotics

1. Yoghurt

Yoghurt, or yogurt, is probably the most famous probiotic food, and it certainly is one the best foods to eat after taking antibiotics. Milk is transformed into yogurt through a fermentation process that uses live probiotic bacteria such as Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus. In addition, other lactobacilli as well as bifidobacteria are also sometimes added during or after the culturing process.

Not all yogurts contain probiotic bacteria.

Normally, the probiotic cultures used to make yogurt remain live and active in the final product. However, pasteurization and some other processes designed to prolong yogurt’s shelf life may kill off the health promoting probiotic bacteria. In the US, the National Yogurt Association (NYA) has developed a Live & Active Cultures seal to help consumers identify yogurts that contain significant amounts of live and active probiotic bacteria. The seal is voluntary and available to all manufacturers of refrigerated and frozen yogurt whose products contain at least 100 million (108) cultures per gram at the time of manufacture.

If you live in the US and are planning to eat yogurt to restore your intestinal flora after taking antibiotics, it is best to choose products with the Live & Active Cultures seal. Without the seal, there is no unbiased validation of the amount of live cultures present in the yogurt.

2. Sauerkraut

Sauerkraut is finely cut cabbage that has been fermented in its own juice by various lactic acid bacteria. According to a study published in the December 2007 issue of Applies and Environmental Microbiology, raw sauerkraut can contain more than 13 different species of probiotic bacteria. Each batch of sauerkraut you eat may contain different proportions of different strains of gut-friendly bacteria, which in turn can help you diversify your intestinal flora.

However, not all sauerkraut is equal when it comes to restoring good bacteria after taking antibiotics. In many cases, commercial canned and jarred sauerkraut have been heat-treated and pasteurized, destroying the beneficial bacteria. Fortunately, some health food stores are bringing back this extraordinary health-promoting food. But before you buy a batch of sauerkraut with the intention of eating it as part of your post-antibiotic diet, make sure that it is labeled ‘raw’ or ‘unpasteurized’. Or, consider making gut-friendly sauerkraut at home — it is a simple and inexpensive way to get to enjoy one of the best foods you can eat after taking antibiotics

The 5 Best Foods to Eat After Taking Antibiotics

3. Garlic

Garlic contains prebiotics which help probiotic bacteria grow.

Garlic, another good food to eat after a course of antibiotics, is a great source of prebiotics. Prebiotics are non-digestible carbohydrates that help probiotic bacteria grow and flourish in the digestive system. You can think of prebiotics as “food” for probiotics.

Recommendations as to the ideal amount of prebiotics in the diet vary substantially, but in most cases, the recommendations range from 4 to 8 grams (0.14—0.28 oz) for supporting general digestive health, to 15 grams (0.53 oz) or more for those with digestive disorders. A serving of three large garlic cloves provides about 2 grams of prebiotics.

Tip: To make a super healthy Greek-style dip that contains both probiotic bacteria and prebiotic carbohydrates that feed these ‘friendly’ bacteria, mix probiotic yogurt with minced raw garlic. Add finely chopped cucumber if you like.

4. Jerusalem Artichokes

Unlike garlic, Jerusalem artichokes – also known as sunchokes – are not a particularly famous food. Nevertheless, these earthy tubers are packed full of nutritional benefits. In addition to providing plenty of B vitamins and immune-boosting vitamin C, Jerusalem artichokes are loaded with inulin, a prebiotic fiber that has been shown to stimulate the growth of bifidobacteria.

Jerusalem artichokes can be eaten raw or cooked, and they make a great gut health promoting addition to soups and salads alike.

5. Almonds

In an in vitro study funded by the Almond Board of California, a group of scientists found that finely ground almonds significantly increased the levels of certain beneficial gut bacteria. The almond preparation was found to lose its prebiotic effect its fat content was removed, suggesting that the probiotic bacteria only use the lipids in almonds for growth.

Almonds provide prebiotics and fight off new infections.

But there’s also another reason why almonds make it to this list of the best foods to eat after antibiotics: A 2010 study found that almonds can help fight off viral infections such as the common cold and flu. After taking antibiotics, you are more prone to new infections as a result of a weakened immune system.

The researchers responsible for this almond study found that naturally occurring chemicals found in almond skins improved the ability of the white blood cells to detect viruses and to boost the body’s ability to prevent viruses from replicating. Even after the almonds had been digested in the gu

via The 5 Best Foods to Eat After Taking Antibiotics.

Scientists cry fowl over the FDA’s regulatory failure: The Guardian

Chickens at a poultry farm in Brazil

Chickens at a poultry farm. Photograph: Orlando Kissner/AFP

In 2005, the antibiotic fluoroquinolone was banned by the FDA for use in poultry production. The reason for the ban was an alarming increase in antibiotic-resistant campylobacter bacteria in the meat of chickens and turkeys – “superbugs”, which can lead to a lethal form of meningitis that our current antibiotics are no longer effective against.

Antibiotic-resistant infections kill tens of thousands of people every year, more than die of Aids, according to the Infectious Diseases Society of America. This problem is on the rise because antibiotics are recklessly overused, especially in the commercial livestock industry, where 80% of all antibiotics manufactured in the US end up.

Fluoroquinolone used to be fed to chickens primarily to stimulate their growth. But why did the banned substance show up recently in eight of 12 samples of “feather meal”, the ground-down plumage leftover from commercial poultry production?

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