A new study has shown that obese children are more prone to carrying a common cold virus than slimmer children. The virus in question is adenovirus 36 and if the link is true then someday new obesity treatments might be tailored to attack the virus to treat or prevent childhood obesity. Childhood obesity affects 17% of American children and adolescents. The report appeared in the journal Pediatrics.
The study by researchers at the University of California-San Diego and Rady Children's Hospital included 67 obese and 57 normal-weight children. Results showed that children who had been exposed to the adenovirus 36 were more likely to be obese than children who were never infected, with 22 percent of obese children having antibodies to the virus, compared to 7 percent of normal-weight children. These antibodies are indicative of the fact that the body's immune system has tried to defend itself against the virus, a sign of prior exposure or infection. Mean weight in those who carried antibodies to the virus was 92.9 kg, compared with 69.1 kg in those who were antibody-negative. Adults studied in other studies have shown similar results. On the flip side 4 of the 19 children in the new study who carried antibodies were not overweight.
“Longitudinal data are needed to elucidate more thoroughly the role of adenovirus 36 exposure in human obesity,” the researchers concluded.
Thus experts still recommend diet and exercise in the fight for obesity rather than antiviral medications. Researchers say that there is more to obesity than infections. This includes a person's genetics, culture, and environment. For example in a 2007 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, people are more likely to become obese if their friends are overweight. Men are 44 percent more likely to become obese if their brother put on weight, and women are 67 percent more likely if their sister gained weight.