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UCSD Study Suggests Link Between Cold Virus And Childhood Obesity

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Aired 9/20/10

New research from UCSD suggests childhood obesity may be linked to a common viral infection. The study offers support for an idea that's been gaining traction in the scientific community.

— New research from UCSD suggests childhood obesity may be linked to a common viral infection. The study offers support for an idea that's been gaining traction in the scientific community.

Researchers examined 124 children to see if they'd ever been infected with adenovirus 36, one of the viruses that causes the common cold.

They discovered that 22 percent of obese children had had the infection, versus only 7 percent of non-obese children. In addition, children who had antibodies to the virus weighed on average nearly 50 pounds more than children who didn't have them.

UCSD pediatrician Jeffrey Schwimmer says it's important to put this finding in its proper context.

"We're not suggesting that this is the sole cause of obesity," Schwimmer said. "Rather, that it may be one important factor out of many that contribute to weight gain."

Schwimmer said his research indicates weight gain is more complicated than some people believe, and he hoped his findings could have social implications.

"Understanding that a virus can be a cause of obesity," Schwimmer said, "hopefully will enable people to move away from assigning blame to children."

Dr. Schwimmer says other studies have shown a possible link between the virus and obesity in adults. He says his work is the first to indicate the possible effect on children.

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