Not as a medicine – though that helps in the intense but unsanitary factory farms where the animals live.
No, no – as a super-performing fatten-up additive to feedstuff. From an egg to a roasting chicken in 6 weeks. Or from newborn calf to an Aberdeen Angus steak in 14 months.
Our daily OD
And that’s the same stuff we’re eating, with every mouthful we take. Our daily OD.
Because there’s antibiotics in the meat that those animals provide. And in the manure they produce. 80% of what they eat is excreted as waste – to enrich the soil and provide fertiliser.
So there’s antibiotics in the grass those same animals eat too – and their feed crops. Plus everything else that grown with “natural” fertiliser too. Which means grain crops, vegetables, fruit, salady stuff. Even vegetarians chow down antibiotics. They OD too.
Jackpot for the farmers. A massive problem for the rest of us – literally.
Because it’s overuse of antibiotics in agriculture that’s accelerating lethal superbugs that our medical miracle drugs can’t cure.
And the other headache – antibiotic resistance
If you haven’t heard of antibiotic resistance, you will soon. Because next time you’re ill or have an accident, there’s a strong chance any antibiotics used to keep you alive won’t work. The superbugs are immune – and one after another, our top performing antibiotics are proving useless against them.
Which includes colistin – a drug that medics call an antibiotic of last resort – the one docs use when all else fails.
Colistin is not new. It first hit pharmacy shelves in 1959. And it wasn’t so amazing either – toxic to the kidneys. So it sat around for years, not much used. Which means bacteria had little chance to develop resistance to it.
An old drug, not much used – that made it effective when a whole new crop of antibiotic resistant bacteria pitched up. Take that, you varmint, bang! And people got well.
Being old made it cheap as well. So of course farmers grabbed hold of it as soon as they knew. Right now, today, there’s a ker-chunk, ker-chunkfactory in China producing 10,000 TONS OF IT a year.
The 10,000 ton OD
10,000 TONS of our last ditch lifesaver! All going into pigs and chickens – to make bigger, fatter livestock – and bigger, fatter Chinese.
Because our metabolisms are basically no different to animals’. So inevitably we will get fat too, as our gut-bacteria is graunched out of proper balanced operation.
First those antibiotics will boost ghrelin, a bacteria-produced hormone that triggers appetite. Then they choke off leptin, another bacteria-produced hormone that suppresses appetite when we’ve had enough. Ready to OD on food as well as antibiotics.
With nothing to stop us going for second helpings, we climb in without realising. Double ham and eggs, double burger and chips, it happens before we know it.
And just like the animals, our bodies start ABSORBING more than they should – becoming more efficient at extracting nutrients from the food we eat. Except we don’t need that stuff – and we’ve eaten too much anyway.
And THAT’S where the spare tyre comes from – not what we eat, or how much we eat, but what we physically take in. Basically TOO MUCH.
OD antibiotics and OD food.
Not natural at all and a major headache for doctors worldwide. Because one of these days we will wake up and no MEDICAL antibiotics will work at all.
No more heart bypasses, hip operations, C-section childbirths, nothing. You could even die from infection caused by a paper cut. Back to the Dark Ages.
Plus of course, fat becomes obesity – and we’re on the road to diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
Oops – which means antibiotics are killing us more than rescuing us.
Time to find alternatives. Herbal remedies if that works for you – or a whole different kind of science. Our money’s on phages – but that’s a whole other story.
Forget all you ever thought about antibiotics being medicine. Here’s a crunch issue bigger than any we’ve ever faced.
Bigger than global warming, bigger than thermo-nuclear war, maybe even bigger than a massive asteroid strike.
Already impossible to stop
It’s a crunch we face now, with repercussions going on for the next 30 or 40 years. All caused by antibiotics – or more accurately, our own shocking misuse of them.
Because, no, no, no, not medicine. Around 80% or more of world production goes into agriculture. Shovelled into plants and animals in industrial quantities – as the most phenomenal quick-acting GROWTH BOOSTERS of all time.
And we mean phenomenal. Bigger, better, faster – a money-making miracle too.
50 years ago, when the growth boosting side-effects of antibiotics were first discovered, the world’s population was 2½ billion. And every inch of farming land was flat-out, producing food to feed them. Even then, it wasn’t enough. There were shortages, with millions going hungry.
Today, our world population has swelled to a whopping 7½ billion. But the world hasn’t got any bigger. The planet is still the same size as it was 50 years ago. THREE times the people feeding off exactly the SAME land space.
Because the miracle difference is antibiotics, particularly in the last 20 years.
Growth boosting by numbers
Amazingly, just by boosting animal and plant growth worldwide, the same land can now support a population that’s THREE times bigger.
But it’s not going to stop is it?
By 2050, world population will be bursting at the seams with a massive 9.7 billion of us – rising to 11.2 billion by 2100. Numbers in Africa alone are expected to double – reaching 4.2 billion by the end of the century. That’s the same as the entire world population in 1977, barely 40 years ago.
Which means don’t expect the use of antibiotics in agriculture to slow down any time soon. With ANOTHER 3.7 billion of us to feed by the end of the century, factories are going to be blasting round the clock to keep pace.
It’s going to be with all the regular antibiotics our doctors know and love too. Trimethoprim, oxytetracycline, ciprofloxacin, azithromycin, cefotaxime, doxycycline, sulfamethoxazole, erythromycin, clarithromycin and ofloxacin are all regularly used by the JCB-load.
And not just the regulars, it’s the emergency ones too. Even colistin – regarded by medics as the ultimate medicine of last resort – was being pumped into pigs at 11,942 tonnes per annum at the end of last year.
There’s only one problem.
With that kind of consumption, currently around 240,000 tonnes a year, the bacteria they’re being used against have had ample opportunity to develop resistance. Already, so many have developed immunity to antibiotics, that doctors are now looking at an Armageddon where ALL of them stop working.
And here’s the crunch. Well, Crunch 1, at any rate.
Thanks to this antimicrobial resistance (AMR), the world-wide move to limit antibiotics in agriculture is gathering ground – a tadpole going up against a whale.
Because it’s not going to happen is it?
Pull the plug on antibiotics in agriculture and suddenly there’s not enough food. Enough for only 2½ billion, not the 7½ billion we are today. Which means 5 billion people are going to go hungry. TWO THIRDS of the world population.
Famine on a scale never seen before. And what government, anywhere, is going to want that on their hands?
Like it or not, antibiotics are a train we cannot get off. Which means thanks for jumping up and down, Doc, we’re going to carry on as is.
The “bigger” problem
Which brings us to Crunch 2.
Only this time, Doc, you’re not jumping up and down enough. Not nearly enough.
Because right now, thanks to antibiotics, we’re also staring at the biggest medical crisis of all time.
Two thirds of adults are already at the start of this slippery slope. So are one third of children. And it all comes back to why antibiotics are used in agriculture – they make living things fatter.
Since we’re all chowing down food that contains the most phenomenal quick-acting GROWTH BOOSTERS of all time, we’re getting fat too.
All triggered by antibiotics. Which all of us – unknowingly – are already on. A low background dose in every food we eat – meat, fish, vegetables, fruit. Milk too. Even the water we drink.
Think again. Surprisingly, farm animals only absorb around 20% of the nutrients they eat. The rest is excreted, to become the manure that fertilises plant crops and enriches the soil. Rain soaks it deep into the earth, leaching through into our rivers.
So we’re getting the antibiotics alright. In sub-therapeutic doses with every meal, just like the 19 billion chickens, 1.4 billion cattle and 1 billion each of sheep and pigs that currently feed us.
And if antibiotics can boost metabolisms from an egg to full-grown roasting chicken in 6 weeks – or from new-born calf to Aberdeen Angus sirloin steak in 16 months instead of four years – what are they doing to us?
Yeah, maybe we’re fat like the gurus tell us, because we lounge around playing computer games all day, glugging Coke and pigging out on pizza. And sure, that kind of couch potato lifestyle has got to have an influence.
But ask yourself, how come so MANY of us have got so large in the last 20 years? The same time period that antibiotics in food production have ramped up Big Time.
Those phenomenal growth boosters are working on us too, through the food we eat – and we’re paying the price.
Which means, face it – we’re going to get fatter and fatter. And lumps of lard, we’ll all fall victims to too much nutrient intake – making ourselves candidates for diabetes, heart disease, cancer and worse.
It doesn’t happen to the animals, their lives are too short. Which is why there’s no scandal or outcry, the issue is invisible.
But us humans have decades ahead of us. Plenty of time for the slow, debilitating effects of obesity to take hold, for the complications to set in, ready to drag us down to an unpleasant and premature death.
If in doubt, panic
Crunch time, world wide. In an epidemic that has crept up on us with such stealth, our watchdog heavies have yet to respond to beyond the odd rumblings about sugar tax and collectively throwing their hands up.
But yes, it’s happening – and two thirds of us are already on the slippery slope.
It will keep happening too, even if antibiotics are removed altogether from medical use, because they don’t work. Our daily dose will come through in our food and drink, continuing to overstimulate our absorption processes.
We won’t even know it’s happening, till we tip the scales further than we ever used to – and waistbands somehow expand larger than we ever dreaded.
Even going vegetarian won’t avoid antibiotics exposure, because the damage will already have been done. Jump-started by antibiotics fed to us for childhood ailments – fat by the time we’re five, with an even fatter future on the way.
So there we have it. Crunch, crunch. Famine or obesity.
And it’s our own fault too. We opened the Pandora’s Box of antibiotics by our own choice. We wanted to go bacteria-bashing and failed to think through the consequences.
Now we have no options. The issue is too big to address because we’ve never learned – all nations together – to unite in the face of a common cause.
Unless we do though, we’re going to wind up either very hungry – or big, bulky and helpless, like the dinosaurs.
We don’t see terrorists coming. We don’t see the dangers of antibiotics either – both of them set to nuke us when we least expect it.
A terrorist bomb might take out a city the size of Greater Manchester – thousands dead, hundreds of thousands more facing years of radiation sickness – like being dead before it actually happens.
Antibiotics are no prettier.
An invisible war
Because to the trillions and trillions of beneficial bacteria in our own gut, nukes are exactly what antibiotics are. Evil invaders who only want to destroy. Mass killers.
Imagine Greater Manchester, millions of times over. That’s what life is like down there in our insides, more bacteria than there are human cells. Reality is, we’re a harmonious, co-existing miracle that’s 90% germs.
Now comes an oral dose of antibiotics – amoxicillin, say – prescribed for some troubling ailment, often unnecessarily. Trillions and trillions of microscopic but benevolent bacteria – versus 250 mg of devastating nuclear destruction.
A massive chunk of your gut, nuked to nothing.
You’re right. The medicine might clobber whatever the problem is – but the body will never return to exactly the way it was. Too many innocent bystanders caught in the fallout. Billions killed, vital diversity reduced. The system is not as strong as the way it was, no longer as all-round resilient.
But there are survivors. Maybe a bit damaged, or not fully functioning – but wise to what antibiotics are capable of, and aware of what they need to do to escape. Next time, even more will endure. And even more after that.
Until the day comes that an antibiotic hits the gut, and our bacteria are impervious. Even to nukes.
Our bacteria have learned how to resist the drugs – even shared their survival skills with others, so all of them are immune. Antimicrobial resistance it’s called – AMR. Wish we could have the same resistance to terrorists.
Except big-scale calamities are not usually the way terrorists work, are they? 9/11 doesn’t happen every day.
More effective – and more insidious – are the little attacks that do. Happen every day, that is. Always there, never letting up, determined to bring us down, little by little. Charlie Hebdo, Bataclan theatre, Brussels airport.
The real killers
Exactly like antibiotics do.
Better believe it.
Because without our even thinking about it, we’re swallowing down antibiotics into our gut little by little with every meal.
In the milk with our corn flakes. In the oats for our porridge. In our bacon and eggs. In the chicken for our sandwich, and the lettuce with it. In the bangers and mash for tea, including in the baked beans.
Little hand grenades in our gut, or letting loose with a machine pistol. Nothing serious, but always damage. Little bits of us that suddenly aren’t working any more.
How is this possible?
It all started back in 1946, when a researcher named Moore discovered the growth stimulation of antibiotics fed to chicks. A colleague named Jukes reached the same conclusion in 1952 – feed small amounts of antibiotics to livestock every day, and they bulk up like crazy.
Money, money, money. Fat, fatter, fattest.
And did we mention money?
Today, 240,000 tonnes of antibiotics are pumped into farm livestock every year. Bigger, better, fatter than ever – and more of them. Enabling our own human world population to explode from 2½ billion in the 1950s, to 7½ billion now.
And of course, all these animals poo – excreting, would you believe, more than 75% of the nutrients they consume – including the antibiotics. “In 2002, 185 million swine sold in the US generated about 280 million tons of fresh manure; in 2006, chicken produced even more (460 million tons), while, in 2007, beef cattle produced 3.6 million tons of manure.”
Knee-deep in trouble
Used as fertiliser for all kinds of agricultural crops – fruit, veg, cereals, grains. And of course feedstuffs for livestock – so that farm animals re-eat the same antibiotics they ate before, with the same effect.
They keep getting fatter and fatter, growing faster and faster – and making more and more money.
Must be tough, being an antibiotics manufacturing company. 240,000 tonnes of stuff turned out by machine ka-chunk-ka-chunk, no effort, no investment – just keep rolling and take the money. No need to invest in new research, the goldmine is already working overtime.
Need proof? Just check your own waistline.
Bigger than it was, huh? You didn’t always wear a Size 16.
But look around, it’s not just you – this is a world-wide epidemic. Two-thirds of us are already way overweight or positively obese. All thanks to the same trigger that makes farm animals fat too – antibiotics.
Whatever food we ingest, antibiotics are in there somewhere. Directly in the food, or absorbed from manure-enriched soil, or leached through into our river systems so even the water we drink is spiked. Antibiotics pollution.
Too big for our own good
Result: obesity is a condition we’re all of us beginning to share – and no way is that healthy.
In fact it’s deadly.
Check the numbers and antimicrobial resistance (AMR) – which means illnesses that cannot be treated by antibiotics – kills about 50,000 of us a year.
But obesity works like the terrorist’s nuclear bomb – wide-reaching, slow-acting, with extreme pain and suffering. The equivalent of radiation sickness – attacking our bodies in the form of diabetes, heart disease, cancer or worse – killing 30 million of us or more every year, and climbing all the time.
Yup – long-term, obesity is going to get most of us. Looking forward to 20 years of medicines, time off in bed, hospital visits, and feeling more and more unwell – more pressure on the NHS than any of us could ever imagine.
Two-thirds of adults – world-wide that’s around 3 billion people. Which kinda makes deaths from AMR look like chicken-feed.
Worse than any terrorist, nuke or no nuke. Worse than any threat we’ve ever faced before – including plagues and world wars.
Is there a solution?
Stop, stop, stop
Short term, eat only organic or ocean fresh – and drink only rainwater.
Long term, STOP USING ANTIBIOTICS and find a replacement.
Anything less and we might as well nuke ourselves.
It’s already started and nothing can stop it. Bacteria are winning, as doctors always knew they would.
Survivors for billions and billions of years, we dared to think we could fight them and beat them. Dazzled by the brilliance of antibiotic healing, we were too proud to see the reality underneath – that every day they were actually killing us more and more
Not so super
Now our miracle lifesavers have met their kryptonite. Super powers gone, melted into nothings, they’re unmasked as the killers they always were.
Because that’s all that antibiotics ever did – kill bacteria.
First the bad bacteria that made us ill, making us think they really made us better. Lifesavers, amazing.
Then the good bacteria we all have in our gut, so essential to our systems that they’re 90% of the bodies we inhabit. Not that we knew that at the time. Or even worried about it that much.
Bad bacteria dead, good. Good bacteria dead, bad.
But that was before we even thought about gut bacteria. Or even knew we had any. Or that they were so vital to our existence. Or that exposing them to antibiotics would destroy or disable key bodily functions we had no idea they influenced. Digestion, hunger control, chemical balance, immune system management.
Actually, we’re still not taking that seriously enough. Titanic has already hit the iceberg and instead we’re anguishing about antibiotics resistance – still clinging to antibiotics as miracle drugs, even though they’re not working any more because bacteria have mutated to become immune to them.
Wake up, everybody – that ship is already sinking.
Bacteria always win
Because bacteria have won and always will – it’s only a matter of when. Even Alexander Fleming admitted that they would, right back in 1928 when he discovered penicillin.
And just check out how quickly they do it.
Penicillin-resistant staph emerged in 1940, just twelve years later – when antibiotics were still in their infancy, not used on the scale they are today. Then as usage ramped up, resistance developed faster, some strains happening almost overnight.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the big discovery was that antibiotics promoted growth of animals and plants Big Time. Four times as big, in a quarter of the time, on the same amount of feed.
These were the original fattening drugs – fed to farm animals every day in sub-therapeutic doses that ensured continued growth – overriding natural hunger controls so that animals gorged and gorged, supersize ready for market.
And of course, pooed out onto the ground to be used as fertiliser for feed crops and other plant types, maintaining antibiotics levels right through the food chain to our dinner tables.
Which means that we eat them too, so they make US fat – which is how come two thirds of adults are now overweight or obese, with killer illnesses like diabetes, cancer and heart disease to look forward to –thousands of times more deadly than all antibiotics resistant superbugs put together.
Time to fight back
Oh sure, we could develop new antibiotics to cope with newly-resistant bacteria strains – a few short-term wins if we could meet the cost. Save a few thousand lives before bacteria mutated again and nixed everything back to zero.
Well, not exactly zero because our continuing daily sub-therapeutic food doses would still ensure we succumbed to diabetes, cancer, heart disease or any of the many other deadly killers once thought eradicated, now poised for a comeback – TB, pneumonia, typhoid, cholera, bubonic plague, back to the Dark Ages.
Our only defence?
That’s back to the Dark Ages too – illness avoidance, but with a modern twist.
Avoiding germs means making sure there aren’t any – you can’t catch them if there aren’t any around.
So, soap and water, back to washing our hands. Every opportunity we get, scrub, rinse, dry.
And not just our hands, but the spaces around us – the things we touch, the air we move through, our enclosed and shared daily indoor world. Protected by ionised hydrogen peroxide mist that destroys all viruses and bacteria by oxidising them to oblivion.
Safe, sterile, secure spaces where our weakened bodies and our precious gut bacteria, ravaged by a lifetime’s exposure to antibiotics in our food, are no longer threatened by external bacteria intent on destroying us.
Next stop, getting the antibiotics OUT of our food. No easy task with anywhere from 65,000 to 240,000 tonnes of them being pumped into agriculture every year (per the Prime Minister’s specially requested review ) – enabling population numbers a staggering 5 billion higher than half a century ago.
Lots of big money, lots of vested interests, lots of incentive to do nothing.
But don’t worry, bacteria will take care of that too.
With antibiotics still in our food, long term illnesses will continue to rise. So will death rates from an increasing number of dread diseases. Maybe by the time half of us are killed off, we’ll come to our senses and stop using the damned things.
They’ve let us play God for long enough, now it’s time to start paying.
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.
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.
Neither is asthma, TB, or coeliac allergy. The possible alternatives if you don’t suddenly balloon.
Yeah, yeah – we’re banging on about this a bit hard this week, but blame it on Dame Sally.
Boss doctor lays it on the line
That’s Dame Sally Davies, England’s Chief Medical Officer, who recently pointed to obesity as being a national threat worse than terrorism – exactly the same as she said about antibiotics resistance only a few years ago. Our super-drugs aren’t working, so super-bugs are killing people.
The thing is though, that these two threats are linked – except Dame Sally doesn’t seem to think so. Her mind-set suggests obesity is self-inflicted and that people largely bring it on themselves – the burger/pizza mentality.
Why else would she suggest a “Fat Tax” for overweight airline passengers? It’s their lack of self-discipline and laziness that makes them the way they are, therefore they should pay.
The real culprit
Yeah, except Dame Sally, fat people are not necessarily the bio-criminals you think they are. Go back to your other worse-than-terrorism threat, antibiotic resistance – and the common denominator is antibiotics.
You’re worried about over-use of antibiotics – causing bacteria to resist them. They no longer work as life-savers, so modern medicine becomes impossible – people die on the operating table.
Not wrong, though it brushes aside WHY antibiotics are over-used.
Yes, doctors prescribe them more often than they should, but it’s agriculture that gets through industrial levels of the stuff – 420 TONNES a year in the UK and counting.
Sure, sure, it’s supposed to be for veterinary reasons, to keep animals healthy. But every farmer since 1946 – when the first batch of super-chicks was produced – has it emblazoned on his profit and loss ledger that antibiotics fatten up animals so they earn more for market. Profit, profit, all the way.
Yeah, so there’s antibiotics in the stuff they sell – and biologically, people are animals too.
Which means pretty well anything they buy at the supermarket has antibiotics to some level or other. Whatever customers eat, their bodies bulk up – just like cattle and pigs and chickens. Exactly like taking pills to make them fat, only they don’t know it.
Suddenly puts our rocketing obesity epidemic into a new perspective, doesn’t it?
Not couch potatoes pigging out, but ordinary Annes and Cynthias being MADE FAT by the carefully chosen and supposedly healthy meat and two veg they make for their families. Their bods are cruelly gone and no wonder – drip-drip antibiotics all their lives, it’s a wonder they’re not bigger.
Going vegetarian doesn’t help much either. Despite the early morning jogs, Dame Sally, your own raw vegetables – organic or not – are just as likely to be laced with antibiotics from the manure used to grow them. How do you like your amoxicillin and tetracycline? Your bod’s at risk too.
Worse than terrorism?
Well yes, a lot more people are at risk – thousands and thousands of them. Trapped in an antibiotic pincer movement. Antimicrobial resistance on the one side – damage and aberrations in the body’s microbiota system on the other.
Because that’s what antibiotics do, they kill and maim resident bacteria, upsetting the balance, triggering the urge to over-eat, or glitching other functions. Where else do we suddenly get all these allergies that never existed 20 years ago? Phantoms and false alarms triggered by the immune system going on the fritz.
Which means we have to be doubly careful if we all want to survive in the future.
If antibiotics don’t work, we could die from a paper cut. And being fat opens the door to other problems like cancer, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, gallbladder disease, osteoarthritis and gout.
And those are just for starters. With the immune system out of balance we are shadows of what we used to be. Weakened defences, lowered resistance, more susceptibility to disease and infection.
All happening just as our reliance on miracle drugs is coming to an end.
Yes, worse than terrorism, Dame Sally – both of them.
A way out
So what can we do?
Well, as England’s CMO, you need a big stick to enforce cut-backs on antibiotics – not just in medicine, but in the world of Big Ag. If DEFRA and the FSA don’t listen, you’ll have to go in swinging.
For the rest of us – not much we can do until the farmers get their act together without antibiotics, so the best is probably to go vegetarian and grow our own – without fertiliser. At least we’ll know what we put in our mouths is safe.
As for our lowered defences and increasing vulnerability, Dame Sally you’re right again – we need to rediscover hygiene.
To go back to basics like washing hands before we do anything. To clean and disinfect everything before we use it – even to sterilising our surroundings, making the air we move in and breathe secure and safe.
They don’t face the jeers and insults – or the misery of staring in the mirror and feeling ashamed.
Everyone gets a chance
Yeah? Well the good news is, they’re going to get theirs.
One day soon, THEY WILL BE FAT TOO.
And like us, they’ll wonder how the hell it happened.
How they could go from good healthy living – walking the mile from the bus to the office and back every day, just an hour of TV a night, no fast-food except on Saturdays, three times a week at the gym, always a walk on Sundays – and suddenly they’re size 18.
It can happen – and it will.
Because however hard we try, more and more of us are getting overweight every day.
Half of us are already there – the number of us fatties has pretty well trebled since the 1980s.
By rights, we should only tip the scales at 65 kg. Fat chance of that now, we’re more than likely weighing in at 70 kg – and that’s without the largeness factor.
Go back to the 50s, and it becomes even worse. Your average bloke weighed 11 stone 6 (72 kg) with a waist of 34 inches. Today he’s 12 stone 6 (78 kg) with a waist of 37 inches – a real porker alongside David Beckham at 74 kg and 32 inches.
In the beginning
So what happened in the 50s? What was it that triggered our unhappy habit of putting on weight like crazy – when we weren’t even close to scoffing ourselves?
Because it made them grow faster. Bigger, fatter, quicker.
Exactly what’s happening to us. Bulking up from chemicals that force our gut bacteria to absorb more calories, the root cause of obesity.
Ramping up more and more and more as farmers realised the profit potential – and high-tech, high intensity production took over farming across the board – beef, dairy, mutton, pork, poultry, fish and even plant crops.
Because however we fill our supermarket trollies, everything’s loaded with antibiotics. Lamb from New Zealand, check. Oranges from Israel, check. Chicken from Norfolk, check. Tomatoes from Spain, check.
The stuff is in all the food we eat, though we don’t know it. In our water too, as the animals poo to enrich the soil, and the ground water winds up in our taps.
Eat, eat, eat
What happens to us is the same as the animals. Some of our gut bacteria gets killed, some of it gets modified. We extract more calories out of the same food and become more efficient at absorbing it. Ever wondered why you get so big but your poo remains the same?
Worse, the switches that tell us when to stop eating get over-ridden. We chomp like there’s no tomorrow. Forget all the baloney about will-power and lifestyle – we become eating machines, just like the farmers force their pigs and chickens to be.
What’s that you say? Antibiotics were banned to EU farmers in 2006?
Quite right, they were – but only for growth promotion. Veterinary use to prevent illness is still permitted. Only on prescription.
So what happens when animals are herded so close together that sanitary conditions are nearly impossible? Careful with that, it’s a breeding ground for epidemics. Better pump in the antibiotics just to be safe. Strictly medicinal. Looks good on the brochure too – the healthiest pigs in Britain.
Every mouthful we take, right?
Every day of our life since birth. Not our fault at all, we had no say in it.
The Mac factor
Oh sure, we shouldn’t pig out on burgers – at 540 calories in a Big Mac, we know that already.
Except a Big Mac is not the junk food the do-gooders would have us believe it is. Yes, it’s loaded with calories, one of the best power foods on the planet. In the poor countries of the world, it’s about the best nutritional boost any starving kid could be rescued by.
The best value for money too. Which is why The Economist magazine created the Big Mac Index – a light-hearted look at real money values around the world, because it’s available everywhere.
We shouldn’t worry though. Saying a Big Mac will make us fat is like saying we’ll get pregnant from kissing. It takes a lot of Big Macs – and a lot of kissing – to achieve the reality.
Plus, don’t forget – the do-gooders eat the same food we do. So it’s only a matter of time before they’re fat just like us. Serve ‘em right for ignoring the evidence in front of their face – that fatteners for animals fatten us too.
So what can we do?
Not a lot, everything coming at us is loaded.
But we can avoid it.
The heck with the price tag, switch to organic food. Not the designer stuff that’s been wee’d on by celebrities – the real products that are labelled “Antibiotics Free” or similar. Choose bottled water, stuff you can check comes from a pure source.
If you have to buy regular food, the only thing is to boil it to hell and gone – 30 minutes at least, but then you’ll know it’s safe. Be sure to chuck away the broth though, you’ve only boiled it out, you haven’t got rid of it. Yeah, the food tastes crummy, but what can you do?
Believe it or not – a poo transplant could work. Sounds a bit sordid, but swapping faeces with someone not affected by obesity can change the composition of bacteria in our own gut and set them straight again. There is even a way to do it ourselves.
Now for the first time, all those weight reducing ideas stand a chance of working. With the fatteners gone, we should really see some results.
About time too.
With apologies to anyone already embarrassed by it, who wants to go through life looking like a whale?
Professor Dame Sally Davies, our very on-the-ball Chief Medical Officer, is right that obesity is a national crisis – an epidemic threat worse than terrorism.
But hang on a minute, obesity itself isn’t the problem – it’s the result.
The real culprit is over-use of antibiotics – the other major alarm issue Dame Sally has alerted us to for at least the last five years.
Antibiotics and obesity?
Sure, the connection is staring us in the face.
Because how come it’s not just SOME of us getting fat, it’s rapidly becoming ALL of us – 50% of women and 80% of men? And how come none of this started happening until twenty years ago?
That’s when farmers around the world – Americans call them Big Ag – started using antibiotics on an industrial scale in livestock production and for everything else. Right now, 65,000 tons a year and climbing – set to be almost double by 2030.
Money, money, money
Big bucks is the driver – higher profits, every farmer hits the jackpot.
With antibiotics regularly in their feedstuff, livestock animals can be farmed more intensively. Closer together, all in one place, easier to manage. But often in very dirty places and prone to disease – without the magic medicine keeping them healthy. Seen those pictures of chicken-houses?
More animals, less space – Jackpot One.
And 65,000 tons a year, remember? Slightly greater throughput than Dame Sally might be used to in the medical field – plenty of practice for superbugs to suss how to resist whatever antibiotics we clueless humans might throw at them. E.coli, salmonella, c.difficile, MRSA – they all start here.
Uh huh. But Big Ag has a bigger, darker motive.
Feed antibiotics to animals regularly – cattle, sheep, pigs, poultry, fish, whatever – and they grow bigger, fatter, faster.
Something tricks their natural gut bacteria into extracting more value from less food -at the same time supressing the reflex that tells them when they’ve eaten enough. They gorge themselves stupid.
Waste from animals becomes manure – to replace nutrients in the soil depleted by constant use. Antibiotics are in the ground, seeping into the water table, leaching through into streams and rivers, into reservoirs – into our homes at the turn of a tap.
So unless you eat ONLY organic foods – grown without fertiliser from any animal source. And unless you drink only bottled water, or boil it death before even thinking about it – you’ve been on antibiotics all your life.
All of us have. Drip-drip residual doses – every day, every mouthful, since the day we were born.
Continuous dosing by powerful substances that make our own gut bacteria super-efficient at extracting the absolute maximum from every last molecule of food. Which switch off our natural mechanism that tells us when we’ve had enough. Our own immune system on the fritz – and getting fritzier.
Forget whatever diet you’re on – pretty well all the food we can buy at the supermarket has antibiotics in it. No escape, even if you eat healthy – you’re getting antibiotics every day and on course for obesity.
Fast food to the rescue
Which is exactly why fast food might save us.
OK, so you order a chicken burger. Better throw away the bun, the salad, the sauce and the side-order of chips – antibiotics in the lot of them.
But not in the meat. Or at least, not in the meat – soon.
Because with falling market volumes – and negative press about the sheer volume of their business contributing to major antibiotic resistance – major fast food chains McDonalds, Subway, Chipotle and others are switching to antibiotics-free supplies. Zero in their chicken – and as soon as possible, zero in their beef and other stuff too.
In the meantime, if you’re worried, get ready to boil everything – meat vegetables, fruit, the works. And when we say boil, we mean nuke it for at least 30 minutes – it’s the only thing that works.
Either that, or be paranoid about genuine organic-sourced food. But check the label thoroughly – even the expensive designer stuff is likely to come from soil in some way exposed to antibiotics.
Are we being OCD about all this?
Well, every girl wants to be pretty, not a two-ton Tessie. And laying the guilt-trip on them that they eat themselves fat is unnecessarily harsh, cruel and callous.
Yeah, so they’re overweight. But how are they to know they’ve OD’d on antibiotics all their lives and their body’s regulatory systems are shot?
Antibiotics upset the natural balance of the body’s own bacterial microbiome, drastically altering its defences, weakening its survival strengths – making it prone to asthma, food allergies, diabetes and yes, obesity.
All of which makes Dame Sally especially right to flag down pregnant women. Antibiotics affect their babies’ bodies as much as their own. Worse, they corrupt the mother’s hereditary process that teaches the baby’s body bacteria about immunities before they are born.
So if Mum’s fat – and she may have battled all her life handling that stigma – her baby could be fat too, skewed by antibiotics that neither of them were prescribed, but which are in their systems anyway. And because of continuing exposure to antibiotics, weaker, less resilient, more fragile and helpless.
Is there anything we can do about it?
Dame Sally as usual, has hit the nail on the head – though for different reasons than she first intended.
She’s worried about medical antibiotics not working because bacteria are fast developing all-round resistance. AMR. At a stroke, most surgical procedures become impossible. If antibiotics don’t work, there’s no infection control to safeguard the necessary incisions.
The only answer, stop using antibiotics (they’re useless anyway), rediscover hygiene. Wash and clean everything meticulously and constantly so germs never get a chance. Sterilise living spaces with a Hypersteriliser.
The preggy ladies are in the same boat. Stop using antibiotics – boil food to boredom, or choose expensive organics . Likewise, wash and clean everything meticulously and constantly so germs never get a chance. Sterilise living spaces with a Hypersteriliser.
Hmmm, supper time after all that. We might go a bit hungry though.
It’s going to be a while before all fast food chains get their act together and stop supplying food laced with antibiotics.
Ah yes, because it’s high fat and a major cause of atherosclerosis – bacon, butter, brown sauce and bread – overdo them and you’re dead.
Actually no – unless you pig out something stupid.
It’s how the bacon gets that way – solid, meaty taste you can’t resist. What happens out on the farm.
A disaster already happening
Antibiotics is how.
Because there’s a lot of money in pigs. So you’ll find them crowded together in high-intensity breeding sheds. Always dirty, often unhygienic – lots of pigs living close to each other, lots of pig poo – a real mission to keep healthy.
Which is where the antibiotics come in. Lots of healthy pigs, a sure-fire success.
Plus there’s a bonus. Antibiotics in their food makes pigs bulk up, especially from young. Bigger, heavier pigs – even more money.
It works the same with poultry – all those mega chicken sheds the size of aircraft hangers. Put antibiotics in their feed and you get bigger, better chickens – they even eat less too. Higher profits, lower overheads.
Which is why antibiotics are used across the board in all livestock production. Beef and dairy cattle. Lamb and mutton. A massive chunk of the food industry on an industrial scale – 65,000 tons a year world wide and rising.
One heck of a health time bomb.
Over-used and useless
Because when it comes to the purpose antibiotics were designed for – fighting disease in human beings – they’re beginning not to work any more. Over-use and abuse have trained bacteria how to be resistant. Our medicines are useless.
Mind you, we’re not exactly innocent ourselves. Jumping up and down with every minor ailment, demanding antibiotics from the Doc like they’re Smarties. Not finishing the course half the time when we get them – teaching bugs to be even more resistant.
“Antimicrobial resistance poses a catastrophic threat. If we don’t act now, any one of us could go into hospital in 20 years for minor surgery and die because of an ordinary infection that can’t be treated by antibiotics.”
Chief Medical Officer, Professor Dame Sally Davies
Catastrophic, yes. But that’s not the time bomb.
The real one is ticking away in our kids.
Because what do antibiotics do? They either destroy bacteria, or slow down their growth – bactericidal or bacteriostatic.
Bacteria are us
But it’s a slowly dawning fact of life that we ourselves are more bacteria than human – colonised over our whole evolution and outnumbered 10 to 1. In our gut alone, there are more than 100 trillion of them – doing the heavy work of digesting, producing proteins and regulating our immune systems.
Which means when that antibiotic capsule dissolves in our gut, it’s like a nuclear explosion. 100 trillion bacteria – boom! Yes, it gets rid of the bad guys, but there’s collateral damage too – good guys caught in the crossfire.
No wonder there’s side effects – cramps, vomiting, diarrhoea. All from fighting infection in a hip operation – what’s that about?
Yeah, that’s what happens when we take a pill. But that’s not the time bomb either.
You see, we’ve all of us been taking antibiotics continuously since birth – and even before.
They’re in the food we eat – the beef, pork, mutton and poultry. They’re in our vegetables too – from soil enriched by animal fertiliser. No getting away from it, we’re full of the things.
But hold it.
If bacteria regulate our immune system and antibiotics destroy them, what does that do to the rest of us?
System under threat
Plays havoc with our defences, right? Takes down our protective shield at exactly the same time that bad guy bacteria learn how to be invincible. Double whammy BOOM-BOOM!
Now flash-back to why those young piggy-wigs get antibiotics in the first place. Not the health reason, the money reason.
To bulk them up. Bigger, better, fatter pigs.
And don’t forget the “from young” bit. So their bodies LEARN to be fat.
Just like we humans do – and have been doing – more and more visibly throughout the last generation. Learning to get fat. Shaped that way by antibiotics. Hello Twenty-First Century obesity.
Yeah, you got it. We’ve done it to ourselves and keep doing it. Getting in deeper and paying the price.
We start as babies – our immune systems shaped and trained by our mothers’ own metabolism. Her bacteria teach ours – about good and bad. Some of her passive bad guys even teaching us about bogies we’ve neither of us met.
But she’s got antibiotics in her system from the food she eats – and so have we. Not even born and we’re already picking up bad habits.
It gets worse
There’s an even bigger hiccup if the birth goes iffy. Docs can save Mum and us by doing a C-section – a caesarean to get us out of trouble. It stops the bacterial learning curve though. Once that umbilical cord is cut, her system can’t teach us any more. We’ve got to go with what we’ve got.
Then whoops, what happens if she goes onto feeding us with formula? Any last-minute briefing sessions in her breast milk are denied to us – our bacteria have to make do with an incomplete picture. They don’t know how to recognise dangers, or what to do when they happen.
Yeah, yeah – but the world’s a healthier place than it was generations ago. Clean water, fewer diseases, better living conditions, less chance to get sick.
Except antibiotics have graunched our systems.
Our bacteria don’t see threats, so they make up phantoms. Reacting to things that aren’t there with very real symptoms – allergies, asthma. When you were growing up, how many kids did you know who broke out in hives from a peanut butter sandwich? Or went into full anaphylactic shock?
And now we’re getting fat, too. Never mind what we eat, we bulk up – like our bodies were trained to from birth.
We can’t live with them, we can’t live without them.
But not all bad
Except that’s not entirely true.
Inside our bodies we’re OK, protected by our own bacteria. It’s the outside nasties we’ve got to handle – viruses, bacteria and fungi, waiting to have a go at us.
Washing our hands is a start. Getting rid of germs on our skin we might ingest otherwise.
Sterilising our surroundings is our best follow-up. Misting up our living space with ionised hydrogen peroxide from a Hypersteriliser – oxidising all germs to nothing, keeping ourselves safe.