Dear Doc: I loved your column about the potential connection between antibiotics and obesity. It was interesting. I would add something: Too many parents push to have their kids take antibiotics, and that may be part of the obesity epidemic in children. These drugs might pacify the parents to get their child better quicker, but they might be doing more harm than good. Parents need to wake up! – B.G. from Spokane
Dear B.G.: How right you are. The overuse of antibiotics, in kids and adults, might just be part of the obesity epidemic we see today.
We don’t know exactly why, as a society, we’ve become fatter and fatter and fatter. It might be high-fructose corn syrup. It might be non-caloric sweeteners such as aspartame, sucralose and stevia. And it might just be some of the drugs we overuse, with antibiotics at the top of the list.
We are just beginning to understand our intestinal biome, the bacteria and other creatures that live with us in our gut. They play a bigger role in wellness than we ever realized – and antibiotics kill off lots of the good guys in that realm.
So whenever an antibiotic is recommended, you should ask your provider, “Is this necessary?” And then follow-up by asking, “Is this really necessary?” That’s your best protection against overuse.
Dear Doc: How much exercise should I be getting? My doctor says 150 minutes a week, but I don’t get anywhere near that. What’s the minimum I should be doing? For me, that’s the bottom line. – K.G. from Buffalo
Dear K.G.: I do think more is better when it comes to exercise – that is, within reason. I have some patients, the young ’uns, who exercise willy-nilly outside no matter what the weather is. I see these “bike to work” folks riding on ice and slush, and I’m thinking, “One good fall, and you’re done for it.”
But the bottom line of how much exercise you get is an important issue because there are many who would exercise “a bit” if they thought “a bit” might get them somewhere.
One study of seniors showed that once you get below roughly 1,000 steps a day, you become frail. If you go up to 2,000 steps a day that frailty disappears. No one wants to be frail, so that’s one measure.
Another recent study from the Framingham Heart Study showed that light physical activity was beneficial in brain aging. Intriguing! They looked at brain volume, finding that each additional hour of light physical activity – doing housework, gardening, strolling, walking the dog – was associated with a larger brain. This was a study of middle-agers – 50-year-olds.
Both studies used activity monitors such as Fitbit or Apple Watch to see what people were really doing. When it comes to journaling what you’re doing, people make like they’re doing more than they really are.
My spin: Any activity is good. If you’re at zero, if you’re at 1,000 steps, then you need to up your game. That means doing something. Pick a clear goal. And remember that 15 minutes of anything is better than 15 minutes on the couch. Stay well.
Dr. Zorba Paster is a family physician and host of the public radio program “Zorba Paster on Your Health.” He can be reached at email@example.com.
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