Obesity Caused By a Virus: Will Your Kid Catch It?

It feels as though I see the words “childhood obesity” about 50 times a day. Okay, maybe that’s an exaggeration, but they're there at least every time I open a newspaper. Was it always news and I just focus in now because I have kids of my own? Well, in any event, the coverage obesity gets these days is truly interminable. The problem must be huge.

I spend a lot of time wondering why the epidemic seems to have ballooned (so to speak) in the last few years, and working to keep my own kids from its grips. Are children really that much less healthy now than when I was living the life of a 10-year-old in the suburbs?  

A new study linking childhood obesity to a cold-like virus has my obsession completely turned around. The dirty little virus is called adenovirus 36, or AD-36, and it can infect fat cells, which, so far, no other type of virus has been able to do.


From a group of 124 kids between the ages of 8 and 18, researches discovered that those who tested positive for AD-36 weighed about 50 pounds more than those who didn’t carry the virus. Among the obese subset (based on body mass, 54 percent of the original 124 are considered obese), the AD-36 positive kiddies weighed about 35 pounds more than the obese kids who were negative.  

Sounds like a connection to me. I’d like to know what came first, the extra chub or the virus? The researches pointed out that "if a cause and effect relationship is established it would have considerable implications for the prevention and treatment of childhood obesity."

I diligently scan labels for the dreaded high fructose corn syrup, and my children are almost as afraid of soda and fast food as they are of vermin. But is there possibly another answer, or at least another component, to this problem?

I would never dream of filling my kids' lunchboxes with the standard fare of my youth -- Hawaiian Punch, Ding Dongs, and sour cream and onion chips. Yet no one in my grammar school class could have been called obese. Maybe this damned virus is to blame for the current tubby state of things in our country!

Right now, my jury is still out as there still doesn’t seem to be sufficient evidence to say for sure, but I’m certainly willing to believe that there is more to this ugly epidemic than crappy food and sedentary lifestyles.

What do you think?


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