A recent study done at the University of California in San Diego identified a link between the adenovirus-36 virus, which causes the common cold, and obesity. The study found that 22 percent of obese children tested positive for antibodies to adenovirus-36 while only seven percent of children of normal weight tested positive for the antibodies. The study also found that among obese children, those that tested positive for antibodies to adenvirus-36 weighed an average of 35 pounds more than obese children that did not have the antibodies for the virus. Another study found 30 percent of obese adults tested positive for the antibodies as compared to only 10 percent of adults that were of normal weight.
Some other studies failed to find a connection between the cold virus and obesity but some researchers question their research methods. For example, one study used subjects enlisted in the military. They were much more physically active than the average person and also had incentives to stay thin.
How the Common Cold Leads to Obesity
Researchers think that the adenovirus-36 changes stem cells into fat cells, leading to obesity. The virus does not always lead to obesity, though; some people with the virus remain thin. Others become obese even though they do not have the virus. Researchers believe that obesity may have many causes, at least some of which are environmental.
People that have the virus but are not overweight may have only been infected with the virus recently, which means they may begin to gain weight later. Or, they may have suffered only a mild case that did not infect the stem cells.
Obese people that do not have the virus may have become obese due to other reasons like lack of physical activity, overeating or eating unhealthful foods, metabolic disorders, thyroid disorders or taking certain medications that cause weight gain.
There is currently no test for adenovirus-36 available to the general public so people cannot get tested to see if they have the antibodies to the virus or not. Experts say that while many children catch adenoviruses, there are numerous strains of those viruses and adenovirus-36 is not among the most common.
While there is a definite correlation between the common cold virus and obesity, researchers say it’s too soon to say if the virus actually causes obesity. More research might tell. In the meantime, doctors say people shouldn’t be afraid of catching obesity like they might catch a cold. Dr. James Cherry, an infectious disease specialist at UCLA, says people should concern themselves more with diet and exercise. Those things are known to prevent and treat obesity, at least in many people.
Science News. http://www.sciencenews.org/view/generic/id/63507/title/Obesity_in_children_linked_to_common_cold_virus. Obesity in Children Linked to Common Cold Virus.
Live Science. http://www.livescience.com/health/090126-obesity-virus.html. Obesity Caught Like Common Cold.
ABCs of Women’s Health. http://abclocal.go.com/kabc/story?section=news/health/your_health&id=7678886. Obesity in Children Linked to Common Cold Virus.