Childhood obesity is a growing problem in American, and most people blame the increase in the number of overweight kids on fast food, too many soft drinks, and not enough activity. While these factors are likely the most important causes of childhood obesity, new research offers a different perspective. Could a virus cause obesity in children?
Could a Virus Cause Childhood Obesity?
Researchers at the University of California School of Medicine in San Diego recently discovered that children exposed to a certain strain of adenovirus have a higher risk of obesity.
They looked at antibody levels against a strain of adenovirus called AD36 in 124 children between the ages of eight and eighteen, finding that 15% of the kids were positive for the AD36 antibodies.
Even more interesting, 78% of the kids who had the antibodies were obese, whereas only 7% of non-obese children had AD36 adenovirus antibodies in their bloodstream.
In addition, kids who had the AD36 antibodies weighed an average of 50 pounds more than kids who were negative for the virus. Could theAD36 virus be a cause of childhood obesity?
Effects of Childhood Obesity: What is an Adenovirus?
Adenoviruses are associated with respiratory infections in children, including the common cold, but they also cause some intestinal viruses, sore throats, eye infections, and more serious infections such as meningitis.
Other Research Suggests That a Virus Could Cause Childhood Obesity
It’s a novel idea that a virus could cause obesity in children, but this isn’t the first time that the AD36 adenovirus has been singled out for this role. In previous studies when researchers injected mice or chicken with similar viruses, the animals experienced weight gain.
No one knows exactly how a virus such as AD36 causes obesity, but experiments using cell cultures in the laboratory recently shed some light on how and why. In the laboratory, AD36 infects young, developing fat cells and causes them to multiply faster – leading to a greater total number of fat cells. It’s not clear whether the virus also alters metabolism in such a way that makes obesity more likely.
Does a Virus Cause Childhood Obesity: The Bottom Line?
It’s too early to say that any virus causes childhood obesity, but it does show how complex the issue of obesity really is. It could also explain why one child can overindulge and not gain a pound, while another struggles to keep the weight off.
Effects of Childhood Obesity: The Bottom Line?
It’s unlikely that all obesity in children can be chalked up to a virus. Good eating habits and regular physical activity are important and are two factors that people can control. It’s best to concentrate on these things until more is known.
Eurekalert.org. “Childhood viral infection may be a cause of obesity”
Int. J. Obes. Relat. Metab. Disord. 24 (8): 989′”96.