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The Common Cold is NOT to Blame for Childhood Obesity!

Posted Sep 21 2010 2:44pm

File this next report under the extremely-interesting-but-dangerous-to-publish category.

Parents of fat kids unite! You now have another reason to sit back and let your child get fatter rather than teaching him how to exercise and eat properly.

Apparently a study has turned up the adenovirus 36 (AD36) as a possible cause of childhood obesity. Adenovirus 36 (AD36) is also responsible for passing on the common cold. Supposedly that means we can now blame the common cold for the reason our children are fat!

After reading the results of the study, I’ve determined that AD36 could contribute to obesity in a small portion of obese children, but there’s no way that it is a leading cause of obesity in America. Read the post then let me know if you agree or disagree.

The research was led by a group of scientists and doctors at the University of California-San Diego (UCSD) and Rady Children’s Hospital.

Keeping in mind that the presence of antibodies for a particular virus indicates a person who had the virus at some point in time, here are the important points of the study:

  • 124 kids were tested
  • Kids were aged 8-18
  • 67 were considered obese
  • 57 were considered normal weight
  • 19 kids (15%) had antibodies for AD36
  • 78% of the AD36-positive children were obese
  • 22% of the obese kids had the antibodies
  • 7% of normal weight kids had the antibodies
  • Children who were AD36-positive weighed, on average, nearly 50 pounds more than children who were AD36-negative.
  • Even within the group of obese kids, those who had antibodies for AD36 were 35 pounds heavier than the obese children who had no antibodies.

Other studies have found that obese adults are also more likely than slimmer people to have antibodies to AD36.

Dr. Jeffrey B. Schwimmer of UCSD reflected on the implications of this research:

“Many people believe that obesity is one’s own fault or the fault of one’s parents or family. 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. These data add credence to the concept that an infection can be a cause or contributor to obesity.”

Sneeze Cat
Fat Cat

I’m going to cut this post off right here because I don’t think this study proves much of anything.

Clearly 78% of the obese kids never had AD36, which leads me to believe that those kids are fat thanks to their environment or some other medical issue. Even if the link between the virus and obesity is proven, weight gain remains a complex issue that involves a person’s genetics, culture, and environment, not just his or her history of infection.

What’s to say that these kids didn’t end up sick because they were already overweight? One could argue that obesity contributes to children coming down with AD36, which would mean parents should double their efforts to help kids maintain a healthy weight in order to keep them from getting sick. Wait a minute, we already knew that!

Our good doctor Schwimmer went on to say:

“Regardless of the extent to which this impacts body weight, there’s no question that eating healthfully and having regular, fun physical activity is good for you. The reason we care about these behaviors is improving health.”

Schwimmer hopes the findings will get people to:

“move away from assigning blame, and broaden the way we think about obesity. Currently, there’s a somewhat simplistic belief that obesity is just a person’s own fault, or in the case of children, the fault of the family. But, that’s an overly simplistic view, and it’s not helpful.”

Studies like this hype up the idea that our epidemic of overweight American children is causes by something other than poor eating habits and lack of exercise. While there might be some small connection between AD36 and obesity, I don’t think there is enough proof to blame AD36 for anything other than a sore throat, a bad cough, and maybe a day off from school.

There is no vaccination or cure for AD36, so don’t get your hopes up. Obesity can still be fought with healthy eating and regular exercise, so matter how many AD36 antibodies are in your kid, so my advice to parents of obese children is to stop looking for a scapegoat, suck it up, and teach your kids how to eat right and exercise.

Nearly every day studies come out verifying that fit kids with smaller waist circumference, have significantly reduced triglyceride levels, and lower fasting glucose, insulin and HOMA-IR. Essentially, they have a far lower cardiovascular and metabolic risk. Why wouldn’t you want that for your children? I know I do.

Just remember than recovery always starts at home, so take a minute to look at your own lifestyle first before coming down hard on the kids.



Is Child Obesity an Infectious Disease?

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