Virus linked to obesity

By HSC Staff Writer • Published: April 19th, 2006
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

You’ve caught colds and fought the flu, but what about obesity? As crazy as it sounds, new evidence shows that catching a weight problem could be sort of like catching a cold.

Viruses usually associated with colds and pinkeye may play a part in the growing obesity epidemic, making those who have been infected more prone to pack on the pounds than other people.

Studies have linked an adenovirus [AH-den-oh-virus…first syllable should sound like ‘a’ in ‘cat’] to obesity in humans, and new research from the University of Wisconsin shows that another form of this virus also causes chickens to gain weight.

Infected chickens gained twice as much fat as non-infected birds, even though they ate the same food.

In humans, another adenovirus seems to be able to flip a switch inside cells, causing them to store more fat.

This could explain why obesity rates have skyrocketed during the past thirty years. The number of obese children has tripled in the United States and more than one-third of adults are now obese.

Overeating and inactivity are usually blamed for obesity, but the epidemic has spread to poorer countries, where fast food, super-size portions and couch potatoes aren’t as common.

A vaccine could prevent some forms of obesity one day. But researchers say that’s no excuse to binge on junk food now. Diet and exercise are a big part of the equation, too.

Eating right and exercising are also the best ways to slim down. And don’t forget to wash your hands… just in case.