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How To Reduce Dietary Antibiotic Intake

Last week was the Center For Disease Control and Prevention’s “Get Smart About Antibiotics Week,” which aims to raise awareness about how growing antibiotic resistance is 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 above in my video pick, 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, new 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).

In health,
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 presentation Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death.

Image credit: Carsten Schertzer / Flickr

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Read more: Food, Diet & Nutrition, Drugs, Eating for Health, Leukemia, Vegetarian, Videos, , ,

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Dr. Michael Greger

A founding member of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine, Michael Greger, M.D., is a physician, author, and internationally recognized speaker on nutrition, food safety, and public health issues. Currently Dr. Greger serves as the Director of Public Health and Animal Agriculture at The Humane Society of the United States. Hundreds of his nutrition videos are freely available at


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8:06PM PST on Dec 15, 2012


10:01AM PST on Nov 27, 2012


9:02AM PST on Nov 26, 2012

Really interesting article, I am inching towards becoming fully vegan -- I typically don't eat meat and very little dairy, but lots and lots of fruits and vegetables. Thanks for all the information, always helpful.

5:04PM PST on Nov 25, 2012


3:51PM PST on Nov 23, 2012

thank you

2:31PM PST on Nov 23, 2012


1:51AM PST on Nov 23, 2012


9:22PM PST on Nov 22, 2012

Good info, thanks.

7:06PM PST on Nov 22, 2012

I've gone vegan so hope that helps. I have to believe that we have been poisoned for years with meats and dairy and that is why we are so sick now.

4:18PM PST on Nov 22, 2012

Thanks for the share!

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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