Health: Obesity from Virus Infection?

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Health: can obesity be favored by a virus infection?

(09/20/2010) The connections between improper nutrition, little exercise, genetic predisposition and being overweight are well known and have already been extensively investigated in numerous studies. What is new, however, is the result that US researchers from the University of California at San Diego have in the current online edition of the specialist magazine "Pediatrics": the human adenovirus-36 (AD-36) makes infected people obese.

As part of the epidemiological study, the research team led by Jeffrey Schwimmer examined 124 children aged eight to 18 years. In particular, the connection between obesity and the AD-36 virus was of particular interest to the scientists. For example, AD-36 was detected in almost 80 percent of the clearly overweight children. This confirms the results of older studies that have detected antibodies to the virus in around 30 percent of obese Americans - but only 11 percent in slim people. The AD-36 belongs to the adenovirus family and usually causes inflammation of the lungs or eyes. However, in laboratory experiments, the viruses stimulated adult stem cells to transform themselves into particularly large fat cells.

There are several criticisms of the results of the study, since 78 percent of the 19 children infected with AD-36 were overweight, but a total of 67 obese children took part in the test and by no means all of them had AD-36. I.e. Obesity can also have countless other causes, and it is also not clear whether AD-36 triggers obesity or, conversely, obese people are more susceptible to infection with AD-36 and therefore have the virus more frequently. "For example, obese people could be at greater risk of becoming infected with AD-36," Julian Hamilton-Shield of the University of Bristol told BBC. It is clear that AD-36 is not the only factor influencing obesity and that, for example, wrong or excessive eating, lack of exercise or psychological stress can also lead to obesity.

Regardless of the cause, "this amount of excess weight (...) is a cause for concern for all ages, but especially for a child," warns study leader Jeffrey Schwimmer. Obesity can lead to numerous later problems such as heart and liver problems or diabetes "Still many people believe that obesity is the fault of the person or their parents or family," said Schwimmer. The researchers therefore also aim to inform that "the development of body weight is much more complicated than expected." Schwimmer hopes that based on the current research results, some overweight people, especially children, can be relieved of some of their psychological stress. "It is time for us to say goodbye to blaming others," explained the expert. "Instead (we should) increase our understanding," Schwimmer demands, and even if the current results have yet to be confirmed by further studies The approach of overweight-causing viruses should not be neglected in the future. (fp)

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