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Secret: Antibiotics in Food Contribute to Weight Gain and Obesity

Updated: May 28, 2019

Over the past 20 years, Americans have become overweight and/or obese. (1) “The food industry discovered in the 1940s that if they gave low-dose antibiotics to animals, the animals gained weight faster. But widespread use of antibiotics to promote growth in food animals really took off over the past 20 years or so with industrial intensive farming. And that coincides with our obesity epidemic.” (2)

Which foods have the most antibiotics in them?

“Pigs have the most antibiotics in their meat, then chicken, then beef, according to research in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Also, farmed shrimp and fish, even farmed salmon, have high levels of antibiotics because the drugs are needed to prevent disease in the farming pens. Even organic vegetables have antibiotics in them because about 75 percent of antibiotics fed to livestock are excreted out, and in the manure used to fertilize fields.” (2)

Why are antibiotics given to animals?

The meat industry uses antibiotics for three reasons: (3)

A. To make animals grow at faster rates

B. To prevent illness (or control the spread of illness) in cramped and unhealthy confined living conditions

C. To treat disease (the least common use by far)

What effect does antibiotics in animal feed have on humans?

“Farmers must be prevented from using powerful antibiotics on animals reared for food, the World Health Organization (WHO) has warned, because of the serious risks to human health that result.” (4)

There are two major impacts on humans of providing antibiotics to animals:

A. The overuse and misuse of antibiotics in the meat industry is contributing to the rise of antibiotic-resistance in the U.S. and across the world. This serious public health issue is estimated to kill 10 million people a year worldwide by 2050. (3)

B. The use of antibiotics in the meat industry is contributing to the overweight and obesity crisis in humans. (5) (6) (7)


(1) https://www.healthnaturally.info/healthy-lifestyle-blog/americans-are-overweight

(2) https://www.berkeleywellness.com/healthy-eating/food/food-safety/article/are-antibiotics-food-making-people-fat

(3) https://www.asyousow.org/our-work/environmental-health/antibiotics-factory-farms?gclid=Cj0KCQjww47nBRDlARIsAEJ34blZMPnb8ViYCtxBxQ91yo-z5lHC2T1ViYo1p-7oADhVEYkOyftgwTkaAkWwEALw_wcB

(4) https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/nov/07/farmers-must-stop-antibiotics-use-in-animals-due-to-human-health-risk-warns-who

(5) https://reachmd.com/news/antibiotics-in-meat-could-be-making-us-fat/1616149/

(6) https://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/09/opinion/sunday/the-fat-drug.html

(7) https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/health/news/9493178/Livestock-antibiotics-could-have-contributed-to-human-obesity.html


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