Researchers aren't sure that frequent use of antibiotics leads to diabetes, but the two are definitely connected

Over the past few years, antibiotics have earned a tarnished reputation for making us more susceptible to getting sick instead of protecting us. And now they might be linked to something even scarier: Danish researchers have connected the use of antibiotics to the development of type 2 diabetes.

The study, published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, looked at the development of the deadly disease in the entire population of Denmark for one year and then compared it to each person's use of the meds. People who filled two to four prescriptions for antibiotics in 2012 were 23 percent more likely to develop diabetes compared to those who didn't take any. And people who filled five or more ‘scripts were over 50 percent more likely to develop the disease than abstainers-yikes! (Do You Know Your Diabetes Risk?)

The research team was the first to say the connection may just be due to the fact that people who are already at risk for developing diabetes, or who are suffering but undiagnosed, may just be more likely to get sick (and thus, need antibiotics). Indeed, they pointed to past research that has found higher rates of urinary tract infections, skin infections, and respiratory tract infections-all of which can be treated with antibiotics-in diabetics.

However, the researchers looked at stats going back over a decade and found that the risk of developing diabetes held true in people who took antibiotics even 15 years earlier. Plus, previous research on livestock found antibiotics led to weight gain (which is linked with diabetes development). Other studies found that antibiotics disrupted the gut microbiome in mice. This changed their insulin sensitivity and glucose tolerance, which can lead to diabetes-and the researchers think could hold true in humans, although that hasn't been documented yet. (P.S. Watch out for these 11 Things You're Doing That Could Shorten Your Life.)

So while we can't definitively say antibiotics could lead to diabetes, there's certainly a possibility of it. If you're worried, it's just another reason to follow the prevailing medical advice: Don't take an antibiotic unless your doc thinks you really, truly need it.