Urgent warning: just two courses of these common drugs skyrocket your risk of deadly disease

As annoying as those springtime colds and coughs can be, a new study offers a good reminder to steer clear of antibiotics unless you truly need them. According to this study, taking antibiotics can significantly increase your risk of diabetes.

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania compared diabetes diagnoses to the number of antibiotic prescriptions in over a million patients.

Those who had been given at least two courses of antibiotics in the prior year had a higher risk of diabetes. And different types of antibiotics produced different risks.

Two to five courses of penicillin increased diabetes risk by 8 percent (more than five courses of penicillin took the risk up to 23 percent.

The results were even more dramatic for quinolones, another type of antibiotic. Two to five courses raised diabetes risk by 15 percent. And more than five courses upped the risk by a whopping 37 percent.

The researchers believe these effects are tied, at least in part, to the damage antibiotics do to your gut bacteria. As I’ve mentioned before, the health of your gut and digestive system is critical to your overall well-being. When that balance is out of whack, your health is affected in a multitude of ways—including sending your blood sugar into a tailspin.

The lead author of the study summed things up well: “Our findings are important, not only for understanding how diabetes may develop, but also as a warning to reduce unnecessary antibiotic treatments.”

I’ve sounded that warning plenty of times before, mentioning everything from antibiotics’ negative health effect on children born to mothers who take them during pregnancy to their ineffectiveness against the stomach woes that often accompany faraway travel.

My advice?

Use antibiotics only as a last resort—and only when you have an infection that is clearly bacterial. Obviously, you’ll need to see a doctor to determine that for sure. But when you’re making an appointment, try to schedule one in the morning. As I mentioned last fall, the longer the day goes on, the more likely doctors are to fork over a prescription you may not really need.


“The effect of past antibiotic exposure on diabetes risk.” European Journal of Endocrinology, epub ahead of print 3/24/15