Excess Antibiotics Linked to Diabetes

Excess Antibiotics Linked to Diabetes

People who had more antibiotic prescriptions were more likely to develop diabetes, according to a Danish study comparing 170,000 diabetics to the non-diabetic population. One explanation could be that pre-diabetics are somehow more prone to infections that need antibiotic treatment. However, it is more likely that excess antibiotic use is killing off favorable gut bacteria. There is already evidence from other studies that altered bacterial types in the gut are not as good at metabolizing sugar.

A related explanation is that people on their way to diabetes are eating excess starchy foods, such as sweets, breads, pasta, rice, tortillas, and very starchy vegetables like potatoes.  An imbalanced high carb diet, poor in leafy greens, alters gut bacteria all by itself.  One theory that is supported by a great deal of evidence is that the resulting bacterial imbalance sets up a low-level inflammatory condition affecting the body in general, making cells less responsive to insulin. People with Type 2 diabetes typically have more insulin than non-diabetics, but their cells are not as responsive to insulin, so even more is needed.

In the U.S., all antibiotics are prescription items and come as a recommendation of the doctor. The Centers for Disease Control estimates over half of antibiotics prescribed for patients who visit a clinic in the United States are inappropriate. These patients are most commonly seeking care for acute respiratory infections that are caused by viruses. The Infectious Disease Society of America advises antibiotic prescriptions should not be handed out ’just in case’. In fact, in most mild to moderate infections, the body resolves the infection on its own.

Action item for the informed consumer: It is up to the patient himself or herself to challenge the need for the antibiotic. Ask: is infection proven or highly suspected to be from bacteria?  Is life or limb or are vital organs at risk from this infection? Is there an underlying immune deficiency that would make antibiotic therapy lifesaving?

Find out more in the upcoming book No-Nonsense Guide to Antibiotics by Moira Dolan, MD


Use of Antibiotics and Risk of Type 2 Diabetes: A Population-Based Case-Control Study by Mikkelsen, KH, et al., in J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2015 Aug 27.

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