And quite rightly, any doctor would be horrified.
But there IS an obesity epidemic, yes. And SOMETHING must have caused it.
Everyone getting bigger
Every day, we’re visibly getting fatter, bulging like we never have before. Right now one third of the world’s adult population is overweight – TWO-THIRDS in the UK. Even a third of our PRIMARY SCHOOL children are overweight. We seem to have no control over eating ourselves bigger – and doctors are seriously worried.
Yes sure, lifestyle, fast foods and sugary drinks are certainly contributors. Lack of exercise too.
But why now? What’s the trigger?
How come we’re all fat now and fifty years ago we weren’t?
They had fast food back then. And Coke by the tanker-load.
Grandpa’s recurring childhood memory includes his first-ever McDonald’s hamburger and fries – twenty-five cents at a drive-up in Dixwell Avenue, Hamden, Connecticut, back in 1958. None of the family were fat then, or for the next forty years. But everybody chubbed out in the last fifteen, since coming back to UK – and UK food.
Yeah, so, a bunch of fatsos. Because like it or not, bulked up like that we’re inevitably at higher risk of cancer, heart disease, strokes, osteoarthritis, asthma and a slew of other serious illnesses – all the legacy of type 2 diabetes, the price most of us pay for obesity.
Eating ourselves bigger – eating ourselves sick – and wondering how the hell it’s happening.
And every day overlooking the one cause repeatedly proven to make it happen.
The antibiotics villain
Only available on prescription – only available from doctors.
Wha…? Antibiotics made us fat?
Better believe it – and lucked a whole load of other illnesses on us too. All without our knowing it.
Even our hard-pressed and over-worked doctors seldom seem to make the connection. They might hear nagging voices about superbugs becoming resistant to antibiotics, but GPs are still doling them out as fast as patients come in through the door.
Part of that is our own fault of course. We all know the hype that antibiotics are miracle drugs for fighting disease and infection. So every visit to the Doc, we demand our miracle muti. We have a mind-set that they’re the only REAL medicine. A bit like our other hype, about antiseptics – if they don’t sting like crazy, they’re not working.
Yeah, so the Doc gets bulldozed into prescribing them – who’s going to argue with a size 18 mother with two kids in a double baby-carrier when she gets aggro? Which is why around 1 in 4 prescriptions for antibiotics written today is completely unnecessary.
Little Joey has a sniffle, so ten million needless medications are supplied for the most powerful drugs of all time. The same miracle-workers without which most of modern medicine wouldn’t be possible – triple bypasses, brain surgery – or routine procedures like hip replacement and C-sections.
Nothing can ever be allowed to go wrong with little Joey – who will grow up like the average teenager and probably go through ten courses of antibiotics by the time she’s 16.
But here’s the kicker. Give babies antibiotics four times before they’re two – and chances are they’ll be obese by the time they’re five.
Your Doc might not be aware of this – too busy trying to keep people well. But the proof stares all of us in the face every time we go shopping at Tesco.
Check out the chicken in the chiller aisle. Large 2 kg roaster for only £4.50. Five weeks ago, that was an egg – OK, probably longer, it takes around 10 days for the supply chain to reach the shops.
It’s still a miracle. Five weeks from hatching to a full-grown bird. And all done with antibiotics. Take your pick from chlortetracycline, procaine penicillin, oxytetracycline, tylosin, bacitracin, neomycin sulfate, streptomycin, erythromycin, linomycin, oleandomycin, virginamycin, or bambermycin – just a short list of the antibiotics used in livestock production.
Not exactly chicken feed are they?
Except they are. Because farmers have known for yonks that antibiotics bulk up livestock faster for less. Just like humans, small doses in early life stimulate development. Bigger, better – and they can be kept indoors – not so sanitary, but way more intense – thousands and thousands of them all under one roof. Behold the factory farm.
Which is why antibiotics are used around the world way more than in any doctor’s surgery.
Which is how it’s possible to go from an egg to a 2 kg roasting chicken in just five weeks. Spectacular? You bet. And the whole world has known about it for at least half a century.
“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.” New York Times Sunday Review “The Fat Drug”
Not all bad… we hope
OK, to be fair, farmers do try to reduce our exposure to animal-fed antibiotics before they’re sold to us. By law all animals for market have to go through a withdrawal period of two weeks or more – no antibiotics in their feed to be sure they metabolise out of their systems.
But they’re in there anyway. And in us too – bulking us up, just like them.
Because while the farmer might stop ADDING doses in their food, those same animals are gobbling up grass and grain feeds already fertilised by their own antibiotics-laden manure. Plus, since plants are not regulated the same way as animals, there’s heavy antibiotics use in vegetable and grain crops too.
It doesn’t stop there. Because the antibiotics leach into the soil and so into our river systems, so that our very water supply is laced with them as well.
No wonder we’re fat!
We’re not as healthy was we used to be either. Because making us fat isn’t all that antibiotics do.
At the brutal business end, they work by killing bacteria, mostly in our digestive tract. And just like insecticides working against different bugs, some antibiotics work better at killing particular bacteria types more than others.
But they all work by destruction.
That’s kind of disastrous for our bodies. Because scientists are now discovering that our internal bacteria are vital to our existence. In fact our microbiota – the 100 trillion plus bacteria colonising our gut – seems to regulate and control our bodies’ life balance far more than we realised.
It’s like our bodies are the hardware – and our gut bacteria are the software that enable us to operate – our internal OS and a whole load of supporting apps that regulate hunger, help us digest, produce proteins, even control our immune systems.
The whole shebang is inherited from our Mums and installed as a new iteration on our own systems in the womb and through the act of birth. If we have a C-section delivery, some of that info is glitched or not properly installed, so our strength and resilience against hostile outside bacteria might not be as powerful as it should.
The same with antibiotics – which explode in our gut like a hydrogen bomb, killing bad bacteria along with the good ones – screwing up our delicate settings and throwing everything out of balance. Yup, you got it – that’s why antibiotics themselves sometimes make us sick while we’re taking them – we’re all out of whack.
Never the same again
Yeah, the system recovers – our bacteria have learned to survive over millions of years, far longer than we’ve ever existed. We DO get better.
The downside is that we never get back to where we were, we don’t reset to 100%. Exactly like running a fix program which corrects problems – but strips out a load of operating apps while it does so, leaving half of our stuff inaccessible or unusable. Like the switches that tell us when we’ve had enough to eat are graunched, we gobble compulsively. Or we develop a load of allergies we never had before.
On top of that, this thing snowballs the longer it goes on.
We’re getting antibiotics from two sources – the stuff our Doc prescribes because we’re sick – and the steady drip, drip background dose coming through in everything we eat – fast food or health stuff, meat or vegetarian – every mouthful we bite or sip.
Say that knocks you back 20% by the time you’re 25 – the time to start a family. 20% less resilient, not all you could be. Tough on your kids, but you’ll make it.
OK, so we’re nearly three generations down since the 1950s – when all this antibiotics hoo-ha began. 20% for you, 20% for your Mum, 20% for her Mum before her.
Whoh, 60%! – an exaggeration of course, but it underlines the point – we’re not as healthy as we were, we get sick more easily, being overweight is just part of it.
Hoo boy! What a Pandora’s box!
But back in the 1950s, medical science had no idea antibiotics could do such damage. All they saw was people getting better and animals getting bigger – without connecting the two.
Yeah, they DID foresee the possibility of antibiotic resistance and the rise of superbugs. But now superbugs are everywhere and antibiotics as germ-fighters are rapidly becoming useless. Will that be enough reason to stop using them?
Because the disaster keeps getting bigger – not knowing what’s coming, more and more out of control – like that other tragedy also from the 1950s, childhood deformities from thalidomide.
So what can we do?
Our own Chief Medical Officer, Dr Dame Sally Davies has already spelled it out – rediscover hygiene. Make being clean and staying clean a Number One Priority, because if our resistance is really 60% down, we need all the help we can get.
Which means washing hands – before and after everything. Keeping our living space safe from germs too – sterilising the air and everything around us once a day, once a week or whatever with a Hypersteriliser. We might be health wimps, but we’re not going to go easily.
Should we blame the doctors? Hey, all they’re trying to do is save lives.
Besides, remember that one accusing finger means there’s three pointing back at ourselves. It’s all of us who should take the heat – particularly for our greed. We wanted bigger, better fatter – well now we’ve got it – in spades. Super-obesity here we come.
Unless of course you grow your own, drink bottled water, and live in a bath tub.
Good health to you all!