Danish researchers have found an association between the use of antibiotics and the development of Type 2 diabetes.
In 2012, the researchers identified 170,504 cases of Type 2 diabetes and matched them with 1,364,008 controls without diabetes. Then they used Danish government databases to check the participants’ antibiotic use over the previous 13 years.
Compared with having filled no prescription for antibiotics, those who filled two to four prescriptions had a 23 percent higher risk for diabetes, and those who filled five or more had a 53 percent higher risk.
The study, in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, acknowledges that reverse causation is a possibility — in other words, people who have diabetes or are at risk of developing the disease may take more antibiotics than others. Still, the risk was apparent up to 15 years before a diabetes diagnosis, which argues against this reverse causation.
The scientists suggest that antibiotics may disrupt the gut biota, causing changes in insulin sensitivity and glucose tolerance, which can lead to diabetes.
“In animal studies, antibiotic treatment has been shown to affect glucose and insulin metabolism,” said the lead author, Dr. Kristian Hallundbaek Mikkelsen of the Center for Diabetes Research at Gentofte Hospital in Copenhagen. “What we see in animals may be happening in people, and if so, then there are more good reasons to be strict about antibiotic prescription policy.”