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Are Ear Infections Linked to Childhood Obesity?

Posted Mar 23 2011 9:24pm

Here’s another interesting connection with an explanation that may surprise you. Researchers in South Korea found that children with chronic otitis media had measurable taste changes that could explain why these same children tended to be more overweight. This link between chronic otitis media and obesity has been made before, but this is the first time researchers showed what was suspected as a possible culprit: That chronic inflammation of the middle ear can adversely affect the taste-sensing chord tympani nerve, which travels through the middle ear. They showed that children with chronic otitis media had reduced taste capacity to sense sweet and salty flavors, and that this could make children eat more.

The problem with this study is that it doesn’t prove that having fluid in the middle ear causes obesity. It only shows a relationship. What’s more plausible is that these children have significant sleep-breathing problems that can lead to both ear infections and increased weight. We know that obstructive sleep apnea can lead to pharyngeal and nasal inflammation, which can prevent proper eustachian tube function. Poor sleep from poor breathing also promotes weight gain by increasing one’s appetite for sugary, fatty foods.


 

 

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