Danish researchers have found a link between taking antibiotics and an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, according to The New York Times.
For the study, published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, researchers analyzed data from 170,504 study participants with type 2 diabetes, and matched the data with 1,364,008 controls without diabetes. Researchers found those who filled antibiotic prescriptions 2-4 times experienced a 23 percent hike in the rate of diabetes, while those who'd done so five or more times saw a 53 percent increase in the disease.
Scientists think that antiobiotics may eventually lead to type 2 diabetes by disrupting the gut biota, which can cause changes in insulin sensitivity and glucose tolerance.
“In animal studies, antibiotic treatment has been shown to affect glucose and insulin metabolism,” lead study author Dr. Kristian Hallundbaek Mikkelsen of the Center for Diabetes Research at Gentofte Hospital in Copenhagen said to The New York Times. “What we see in animals may be happening in people, and if so, then there are more good reasons to be strict about antibiotic prescription policy.”
While this study looked at taking antibiotics for medical purposes, the majority of antibiotic exposure (roughly 80 percent) comes from animal production. This, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has led to an increase in antibiotic resistant bacteria, which is why lawmakers are calling on the U.S. Department of Agriculture to push farmers to reduce their reliance on antibiotics.
In a letter to Brian Ronholm, the USDA’s Acting Under Secretary for Food Safety and the chair of the National Advisory Committee on Microbiological Criteria for Foods (NACMCF), Reps. Louise Slaughter (NY) and Rosa DeLauro (CT) called on the agency to clamp down on the rampant use of antibiotics.
“Recent research from Harvard Medical School has shown that antibiotic resistance also increases bacterial fitness and virulence,” write Slaughter and DeLauro. “These observations suggest it is time to reconsider the reliance on antibiotics in the poultry production system and also implement control strategies specifically effective against multi-drug resistant bacteria.”
Big industry players like Perdue and Tyson Foods have stepped up to the plate to reduce antibiotics in the food system. Perdue announced last year it was removing antibiotics from use in its chicken hatcheries. The company said it had reached the point where 95 percent of its chickens never received antibiotics, and those that did had them prescribed by a veterinarian. And Tyson Foods, the country’s largest poultry producer, announced it would stop feeding its chickens antibiotics used in human medicine by 2017.
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Antibiotics image via Shuttershock