Researchers think they’ve found
another piece to the complex puzzle of what’s causing a rise in childhood
obesity worldwide: Kids who’ve suffered from a common cold virus are also more
likely to be significantly heavier than their peers.
In a small study of 124 youths,
slightly more than half of them obese, researchers concluded that 15 obese
children had antibodies for the virus known as AD36 — meaning they’d suffered
from it at some point — compared with only four normal-weight children.
And in a comparison of obese
participants who did and didn’t have the AD36 antibodies, those who did were
“This shows that body weight
regulation and the development of obesity are very complicated issues,”
Dr. Jeffrey Schwimmer, the study’s lead author, said. “It’s not simply a
case that some children eat too much and others don’t.”
the link between the cold virus and obesity?
It’s too early to tell if the virus is causally linked to obesity: The
possibility exists that overweight kids are simply more vulnerable to the
illness. But prior laboratory and animal studies of AD36 suggest that the virus
actually boosts production of fat cells and might even spur existing cells to
store greater quantities of fat.
AD36 is a remarkably common viral
strain, responsible for flare-ups of respiratory ailments, gastrointestinal
upset and even eye infections.
Even if subsequent studies confirm
the AD36-obesity link, few options exist to help affected kids. There’s no
routine test to screen for AD36, nor are there vaccines to prevent it.
“People want a magic solution,”
Dr. Goutham Rao, clinical director of the Weight Management and Wellness Center
at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, said.
“Unfortunately, we don’t have one.
What people can do is focus on a child’s behaviours and eliminate the unhealthy