Virus May Cause Childhood Obesity

Cheryl Clark, September 22, 2010

Antibodies to an adenovirus could provoke obesity in children, perhaps in addition to poor diet and sedentary behavior, a Pediatrics report shows.

Jeffrey Schwimmer, MD, associate professor of clinical pediatrics at the University of California San Diego and colleagues recruited 124 children and adolescents between age 8 and 18, seeking to include at least 50 who were obese and at least 50 who were not.

They discovered that 19 of the 124 children tested positive for adenovirus-36 antibodies. And of those, 78% were obese, weighing at least 50 pounds more, on average, than children who were AD36 negative. "AD-36 was significantly more frequent in obese children (15/67, 22%) than non-obese children (4/57, 7%)," Schwimmer writes.

"Many people believe that obesity is one's own fault or the fault of one's parents or family," Schwimmer says. This work helps point out that body weight is more complicated than it's made out to be. And it is time that we move away from assigning blame in favor of developing a level of understanding that will better support efforts at both prevention and treatment."

"Should a cause-and-effect relationship be established," Schwimmer and colleagues say. "It would have considerable implications for the prevention and treatment of childhood obesity."

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