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How To Reduce Dietary Antibiotic Intake

Recently the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention commemorated “Get Smart About Antibiotics Week,” which aimed to raise awareness about growing antibiotic resistance as one of the world’s most pressing public health threats. One way to combat this problem is avoid putting antibiotic-laden foods in our shopping carts and our families’ mouths.

Though persistent organic pollutants like dioxins and PCBs can persist for years in our bodies (see my 2-min video How Fast Can Children Detoxify from PCBs?), other dietary contaminants such as antibiotic residues may be more of a matter of constant re-exposure on a day-to-day basis. As you can see in my 2-min. video Lowering Dietary Antibiotic Intake, a study last year measured changes in the levels of antibiotics before and after a 5 day vacation from meat.

They tested participants’ urine for the presence of a number of clinically important human antibiotics. Though none of the study participants were actually taking these drugs, antibiotics were found flowing through their bodies.  Within just five days of eating vegetarian, though, the study “demonstrated clearly that even short-term dietary changes could reduce the frequency of detection and levels of major antibiotics.”

A follow-up study testing antibiotic levels in meat directly found that “Consumption levels of beef, pork, chicken, and dairy products could explain the daily excretion amount of several antibiotics in urine.” Which has more though, chicken thigh or breast? Find out in my 1-min video More Antibiotics in White Meat or Dark Meat?

This year, the Consumers Union—the publishers of Consumer Reports—launched a Meat Without Drugs campaign to pressure retailers to demand meat producers stop gobbling up 80% of the antibiotics sold in the United States to help fatten animals faster and prevent disease in such stressful, crowded, unhygienic environments (see for example, recent undercover footage at a Butterball turkey plant). Our exposure to drugs given to turkeys and chickens may be one reason poultry consumption has been associated with significantly higher lymphoma and leukemia risk. See my videos EPIC Findings on Lymphoma and Chicken Dioxins, Viruses, or Antibiotics?

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).

Vegetarians may also have lower exposure to carcinogenic nitrosamines (see Prevention Is Better Than Cured Meat) as well as some of the more persistent pollutants (see Flame Retardant Chemical Contamination and Industrial Pollutants in Vegans).

Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here and watch my full 2012 – 2015 presentations Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death, More than an Apple a Day, From Table to Able, and Food as Medicine.


Michael Greger M.D., FACLM

Michael Greger, M.D. FACLM, is a physician, New York Times bestselling author, and internationally recognized professional speaker on a number of important public health issues. Dr. Greger has lectured at the Conference on World Affairs, the National Institutes of Health, and the International Bird Flu Summit, testified before Congress, appeared on The Dr. Oz Show and The Colbert Report, and was invited as an expert witness in defense of Oprah Winfrey at the infamous "meat defamation" trial.

5 responses to “How To Reduce Dietary Antibiotic Intake

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  1. Question(s): Does the label “organic” definitely mean the antibiotics in these meats and fish are not present? And if not, how much different are “organic” antibiotic levels from the regular meats and fish levels? Thanks.

  2. Antibiotics are not suppose to be added to certified organic livestock including fish. But, this administration and specifically, the USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack does not always adhere to the law as passed by Congress. He may skirt the law by appointing people to the National Organic Standards Board who may do the bidding of big agriculture or livestock farmers. The NOSB votes on substances added to organic agriculture.

    However, you can be assured that antibiotics are very likely in NON-ORGANIC meats and fish.

    The only way to better avoid them is to not eat meat and fish is also meat! And, if the antibiotics are in your groundwater (water is not regulated for antiobiotics) is to move to a country that enforces their laws. The USA only enforces some laws and consumers generally lose.

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