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Do Antibiotics Make Us Fat?

Antibiotics and obesity. Whether it’s possible that antibiotics plump up humans the same way they do animals, livestock. Plus, we check in on the third anniversary of Japan’s Fukushima Nuclear Disaster.

 

Microbiologist Tatiana Travis reads a panel to check on a bacterium's resistance to an antibiotic in an antimicrobial resistance and characterization lab within the Infectious Disease Laboratory at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Monday, Nov. 25, 2013, in Atlanta. (AP)

Microbiologist Tatiana Travis reads a panel to check on a bacterium’s resistance to an antibiotic in an antimicrobial resistance and characterization lab within the Infectious Disease Laboratory at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Monday, Nov. 25, 2013, in Atlanta. (AP)

American farmers commonly feed their livestock grain laced with antibiotics because it makes bigger animals.  Heavier.  Fatter.  So what about the antibiotics we humans take – for the ear ache, the strep throat, the sinus infection.  Could those make us heavier?  Fatter?  No one argues that diet and exercise – or lack of it – come first.  But could antibiotics be a scale-tipping X-factor in American obesity?  This hour On Point:  we’re looking at antibiotics and obesity.  Plus, we’ll go to Japan to check in on the Fukushima nuclear power plant, three years after its tsunami disaster.

— Tom Ashbrook

Guests

Pagan Kennedy, columnist for the New York Times and contributor to The New York Times Magazine. (@PaganKennedy)

Dr. Ilseung Cho, assistant professor of medicine and associate program director for the Division of Gastroenterology at the New York University School of Medicine.

Dr. James Levine, professor of medicine at Arizona State University, expert in obesity research. Co-director of the Mayo Clinic / A.S.U. Obesity Solutions Initiative.

From Tom’s Reading List

New York Times: The Fat Drug — “In the last decade, however, scrutiny of antibiotics has increased. Overuse of the drugs has led to the rise of antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria — salmonella in factory farms and staph infections in hospitals. Researchers have also begun to suspect that it may shed light on the obesity epidemic.”

Mother Jones: Can Antibiotics Make You Fat? –“Are we being exposed to tiny levels of antibiotics through residues in the meat we eat—and are they altering our gut flora? It turns out that the Food and Drug Administration maintains tolerance limits for antibiotic residue levels, above which meat isn’t supposed to be released to the public.”

Nature: Antibiotics in early life alter the murine colonic microbiome and adiposity — “Antibiotics administered in low doses have been widely used as growth promoters in the agricultural industry since the 1950s, yet the mechanisms for this effect are unclear. Because antimicrobial agents of different classes and varying activity are effective across several vertebrate species, we proposed that such subtherapeutic administration alters the population structure of the gut microbiome as well as its metabolic capabilities.”

Japan’s Fukushima Nuclear Disaster, Three Years Later

Antoni Slodkowski, politics and general news correspondent at Reuters. (@slodek)

Edwin Lyman, senior scientist of the Global Security Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists. Co-author of “Fukushima: The Story of A Nuclear Disaster.”

Reuters: The children of Japan’s Fukushima battle an invisible enemy — “Though the strict safety limits for outdoor activity set after multiple meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in 2011 have now been eased, parental worries and ingrained habit mean many children still stay inside. And the impact, three years on, is now starting to show, with children experiencing falling strength, lack of coordination – some cannot even ride a bicycle – and emotional issues like shorter tempers, officials and educators say.

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