We get warned about other issues.
About antibiotic resistance, for instance.
That bacteria are rapidly becoming immune to our cure-all wonder drugs.
That soon doctors will not be able to treat even everyday infections. Superbugs will have won the day and medicine will return to the Dark Ages.
An antibiotic apocalypse
Yes, very true. And it’s right that we’re warned. An “antibiotic apocalypse” as Dame Sally Davies, chief medical officer for England calls it. A threat on par with terrorism and climate change.
She’s not wrong. Except that alarm about antibiotics failure is the big stick medics are using to obtain funding to develop new ones.
Government money, that is. Drug companies won’t finance it themselves – there’s no money in it. Widespread resistance means new drugs must be used as little as possible. They’re kept for emergencies when the older drugs fail.
So the whole business of developing a new drug and bringing it to market as soon as possible no longer has legs. Bacteria can become resistant in as little as six months, and the whole investment is down the tubes.
So the idea is to push the scare tactic.
Shake the government tree for around £890 million of taxpayer’s money. An incentive for some developer to take a gamble on a new product with an unmet need. Basically a bribe.
Not going to happen, is it?
Too public, too obvious, and too fraught with failure.
The 240,000 tonne money maker
Besides, why should a drug company take risks on new products when they’re already making a fortune on the old ones?
No, no, not as medicines. As growth promoters in agriculture. Because since researchers first noticed it in the 1950s, antibiotics have become the most phenomenal growth boosters worldwide.
In the last twenty years particularly, antibiotics in animal feed have reached industrial levels. 240,000 tonnes currently and set to rise another 70% by 2030. Prompting the rise of the factory farm or Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO). Vital support for rocketing world population, which itself has risen threefold to 7½ billion.
Yeah, so new drugs? Forget it. Ker-chunk, ker-chunk factories are working flat out all they can to keep pace with demand for the old ones. Sorry, no time for research, too busy making money. 240,000 tonnes worth of it.
And why weren’t we warned? Because it had nothing to do with us? Has nobody noticed we’re getting fatter?
Yes, they have. And they’re all keeping schtum about why.
Super-duper growth boosters
You see, twenty years is the same time scale in which our horrendous obesity epidemic has reared up. Today, two thirds of adults are either overweight or obese – so are a third of our kids.
And all of that time we’ve been eating from food sources deliberately laced with antibiotics to boost growth. From egg to roasting chicken in six weeks. From new born calf to Aberdeen Angus steak in 14 months.
On top of which manure from the same animals is used to enrich soil and boost plant growth. So that everything we eat, animal or vegetable, contains residual antibiotics. Every mouthful we take includes traces of the most successful growth booster of all time.
We ourselves are all eating antibiotic fatteners!
Uh huh. So why aren’t we warned?
Why aren’t we told that the reason we’re fat is not junk food, or sugary drinks, or a low exercise lifestyle?
Not natural gluttons
In thousands of years, the human body has regulated itself according to conditions. Wasting away in famine, yes. But seldom ballooning out in times of plenty. And certainly never in an epidemic like we have now.
So why aren’t we warned that just like animals, antibiotics send our food demands into overdrive? That they make appetites insatiable? And that just like animals, antibiotics make our systems absorb too much? Extracting too much nutrition and making too little waste?
We’re not naturally gluttons. Not naturally addicted to high octane, quick energy food and drink – which is what we’re accused of.
But that is what we have become. Our gut bacteria twisted by antibiotics into never being satisfied and always being hungry. Always on the lookout for a quick hit for our induced addiction.
Because pigging out on lettuce leaves will just not crack it. We’re strictly on the mainline stuff. Burgers, chips, kebabs, pizza, ice cream, chocolate, cake – all the good Mary Berry things. And all the no-nos on Jamie Oliver’s list.
Fat and fatter, that’s us.
Yet never once are we warned, despite the evidence on food farms worldwide. Though doctors already know that antibiotic medicines at a young age frequently trigger obesity by four or five.
We get blamed, it’s our fault. And our indulgent lifestyle that’s pushing us further into obesity. To the long-term killer consequences of diabetes, asthma, cancer and heart disease.
Thought antibiotics were lifesavers? We should have been warned. Made aware of a health hazard, just like cigarettes. With big bold death notices on the front of every box.
They might rescue us today – from a chest infection or surviving a heart transplant – if the bacteria don’t become resistant first.
Dead, or dying
But twenty years down the line we get the bill. A bulbous hunk of blubber on intravenous drips and breathing oxygen. Going down for the last time because of something we never knew was happening to us.
We never were – and we aren’t now.
Why aren’t we warned?
Picture Copyright: khamidulin / 123RF Stock Photo