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Link between Cold Virus and Childhood Obesity
A new study by researchers at the Rady Children’s Hospital and the University of California – San Diego have found a possible link between the common cold virus and childhood obesity. The research found that obese kids are more likely to carry a particular cold virus than thinner children. If this link is true, it could lead to new treatments to prevent or treat childhood obesity, which currently affects 17% of kids and teens in the United States.
There have actually been quite a few discoveries of microbes that cause diseases over the years. One example is the H. pylori virus, which was found to cause stomach ulcers. Doctors previously believed ulcers were caused by extreme stress and too much stomach acid, and patients were advised to get plenty of rest and eat bland foods with no spice.
It wasn’t until 1982 that Australian doctors discovered the H. pylori bacteria caused ulcers, although it took the medical community over 10 years to accept this.
The report was published in Pediatrics and found that kids exposed to adenovirus 36 were more likely to be overweight than kids who were never exposed. 22% of the overweight kids had antibodies to adenovirus 36 — a sign their immune system had already fought the virus — while only 7% of the kids of normal weight had antibodies. The study looked at a total of 57 children of normal weight and 67 obese children. Studies in the past have already shown this particular bacterium is more common in obese adults than slimmer adults.
Still, it’s important to note that 4 of the 19 kids in the study who did have antibodies present were not obese, so this link is not definitive. Also, most of the overweight kids in the study did not have antibodies to adenovirus 36. This theory is still no replacement for proper nutrition and exercise.
If this link is eventually proven, it’s important to also keep in mind it will only play a small role in obesity, which is a very complex issue. Obesity involves many factors, including an individual’s genetics, upbringing, environment and even their culture. For example, a 2007 study found that people are more likely to become overweight if they have overweight friends. Both men and women are also more likely to become obese if a close friend or relative also gains weight.
Still, the link does offer some hope to people struggling to lose weight. If adenovirus 36 is involved with some cases of obesity, new treatments can make it easier to lose weight for some people. For most people, however, the best path to weight control is portion control, healthy food options and exercise 5 days a week.