Sure enough, the states with the highest prescription rates also had the highest rates of obesity. Additionally, the study's team found that those same states typically had below-average median incomes. The relationship between obesity and lower income is well established. And, it makes sense. Often it's less nutritious, processed foods that are least expensive (and most calorically laden).
But, Butler suggests that the high rates of obesity might actually be caused by antibiotics, as mounting evidence has drawn a link between gut bacteria and body weight, among many other health issues. Eradicating gut bacteria that promotes thinness with antibiotics could, in theory, lead to weight gain. Our bodies are a complex world for the bacteria that inhabit them — and altering our bacterial balances can throw lots of (unexpected) things off.
Now, it's important to remember that correlation does not imply causation, and there could be a host of other factors at play in areas with high antibiotic prescription rates: environment, income (for example, someone who doesn't have insurance might wait until an illness gets bad enough to require antibiotics before paying for a doctor's visit) or the fact that obesity is also correlated with an increased risk of health problems that might require treatment with antibiotics.
Still, the fact that these three data sets all overlap demands more investigation, as Hicks notes to Mother Jones. In the meantime, read up on your gut. It's endlessly fascinating — and it might be affecting more than you ever thought. (Mother Jones)