New research shows that youngsters who were infected by adenovirus 36, which causes the common cold and slight gastrointestinal upset, were an average of 50 pounds heavier than children who hadn’t been infected by this particular strain.
Dr. Jeffrey B. Schwimmer, a senior author of the study and director of the Weight and Wellness program at Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego is not negating traditional wisdom about the role of diet and exercise in controlling weight. But he does suggest that the adenovirus 36 might be an important factor in a picture of childhood obesity that may well be more complex than had been believed previously.
The study found that 1 in 4 obese children in the study tested positive for the AD36 virus as opposed to only 7 percent of children who are not obese who participated in the study. This raises the question of why some children who tested positive for AD36 didn’t develop obesity and conversely what contributed to the development of obesity in those who did developed an overweight condition without the virus.
Are there secondary triggering factors that work with AD36 to trigger obesity? Are there other viruses that have yet to be identified that also cause obesity?
This study will not negate the conventional wisdom about diet and exercise in controlling weight. But if even a minority of cases of obesity that are caused by factors other than lifestyle and diet choices are shown to be caused by viral infection, then perhaps finding a cure for those cases of obesity that are triggered by a virus will be the next goal for researchers in the field of obesity.
The full article on the obesity study appears in the Sept. 20 online issue of Pediatrics.