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Lowering Dietary Antibiotic Intake

What a few days eating vegetarian can do to the level of antibiotics and phthalates flowing through one’s body.

November 7, 2012 |
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Sources Cited

Acknowledgements

Images thanks to: ZaldyImg and Marion County, Oregon.

Transcript

Persistent organic pollutants like dioxins PCBs can persist, for years in our bodies, but other dietary contaminants, like antibiotic residues and some of the plastic compounds may be more of a matter of constantly re-exposing ourselves on a day-to-day basis as suggested by this study last year that measured changes in the levels of antibiotic and phthalate metabolites before and after a 5 day meat-free stay at a Buddhist temple.

They tested participants’ urine for the presence of a number of important antibiotics, such as Bactrim, enrofloxacin, cipro and although none of the participants were actually on antibiotics, the drugs were all found flowing through their bodies, but within 5 days eating vegetarian “The present study demonstrated clearly that even short-term dietary changes could reduce the frequency of detection and levels of major antibiotics." Antibiotics detected in the urine assumed to be mostly originated from dietary intake, since participants with recent medication histories were excluded from the study.” But see they didn’t know if maybe the drugs were in the water supply rather the meat supply, but since they kept drinking the same amount of water, this study suggests that the contribution of drinking water may be negligible in the daily amount of antibiotics that are inadvertently consumed.”

To make sure, though, they did a follow-up study in which they actually tested for levels of antibiotic residues in meat, and indeed found that “Consumption levels of beef, pork, chicken, and dairy products could explain the daily excretion amount of several antibiotics in urine”—and the phthalate contaminants as well.

Measures of oxidative stress dropped as well after the meat-free five days, but then again they were in a Buddhist temple meditating all day, so it's hard to tease out which did what, but the researchers concluded: “The results of this study suggest that dietary change, even in the short term, could significantly reduce dietary exposure to antibiotics and phthalates and, in turn, oxidative stress levels in the general adult population.”

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Kerry Skinner.

To help out on the site please email volunteer@nutritionfacts.org

Dr. Michael Greger

Doctor's Note

Vegetarians may also have lower exposure to some of the more persistent pollutants. See Flame Retardant Chemical Contamination and Industrial Pollutants in Vegans. For more on antibiotics in meat, see Drug Residues in Meat. Drug residues may also end up in the flesh of fish. See A Fine Kettle of Fluoxetine. For more on phthalates in meat, see Chicken Consumption and the Feminization of Male Genitalia. Are there More Antibiotics In White Meat or Dark Meat? Good question! That's tomorrow's video-of-the-day.

For some context, please check out my associated blog posts: How To Reduce Dietary Antibiotic IntakeShould We Avoid Titanium Dioxide?, and  Probiotics and Diarrhea

If you haven't yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/ Michael Greger M.D.

    Vegetarians may also have lower exposure to some of the more persistent pollutants. See Flame Retardant Chemical Contamination and Industrial Pollutants in Vegans. For more on antibiotics in meat, see Drug Residues in Meat. Drug residues may also end up in the flesh of fish. See A Fine Kettle of Fluoxetine. For more on phthalates in meat, see Chicken Consumption and the Feminization of Male Genitalia. Are there More Antibiotics In White Meat or Dark Meat? Good question! That’s tomorrow’s video-of-the-day.
     
    If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

  • BPCveg

    Please fix the sources cited section…currently the links do not appear to be correct.

    Thanks in advance.

    • http://nutritionfacts.org/ Michael Greger M.D.

       Thanks Brige–fixed!

  • Jo

    Absolutely love the redesign, the columns, the highlights, the information!

  • http://www.facebook.com/mary.mellor.92 Mary Mellor

    Could you please clarify for me, your saying that ‘vegetarians produce more anti-biotics?’ Or, is it the other way around. I listed to the video a few times and could not understand. Much appreciated. Thank you!

    • TCB Health

      Hi Mary,

      What Dr. Greger is saying is not that vegetarians produce more antibiotics, but that there seems to be a correlation between diet and antibiotic levels in the body. Animals raised to be food for humans are given antibiotics while alive often as preventive measures against diseases that could arise in crowded conditions. These antibiotics remain in the meat consumed. From the studies cited, it appears that antibiotics are more likely to be found in meat eaters, probably due to the presence of these antibiotics in the meat (although environmental factors are possible, too, in the form of antibiotic residue in water supplies, for instance). The people who stayed at the retreat for five days lowered their levels of antibiotics after consuming a vegetarian diet presumably because they were not eating antibiotic-riddled meat. You can learn more here: More Antibiotics In White Meat or Dark Meat? and Chicken Dioxins, Viruses, or Antibiotics? .

  • eyebeat

    I wonder if this might explain my gut sensitivity to a course of antibiotic that I received for an infection. It took 2 months for things to get back to normal. It would seem that you could hypothesize that the gut flora of a meat eater are probably mostly resistant to antibiotics while the gut flora of a vegan are probably sensitive. Thus, a course of antibiotics might wipe out, so to speak, the vegan gut. Mine was.

  • SuanSwantastic

    I hope there is a study like this again except use Organic Grass fed meats vs. “traditional” factory meats. I pay the extra cost for organic/free-range/etc meats and would like to see if it’s worth it.

  • LDGourmet

    “Natural” as a marketing term has taken over in most consumers’ consciousness as a hallmark of clean food. This is a shame. “Natural” is almost wholly unregulated and people would be quite surprised to learn what their “natural” meats contain.

  • Alice Restivo

    is it okay to eat aloe vera gel