MONDAY, Sept. 20 (HealthDay News) -- At least part of the blame for childhood obesity might be traced to a unexpected cause -- a certain strain of the virus that causes the common cold.
New research shows that youngsters who were infected by adenovirus 36, which causes the common cold and slight gastrointestinal upset, were an average of 50 pounds heavier than children who hadn't been infected by this particular strain.
"Obesity and body weight regulation is far more complex than is typically discussed, and these data support the idea that a viral infection could be one important cause of obesity," said study senior author Dr. Jeffrey B. Schwimmer, director of the weight and wellness program at Rady Children's Hospital in San Diego.
This study doesn't, however, suggest that people should give up on healthy eating and exercise. "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," said Schwimmer.
What Schwimmer does hope the findings will do is 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," he said.
Other studies, done in animals and human adults, have already shown an association between viral infections and obesity, but the exact relationship between those factors still isn't well known, according to Schwimmer.
The current study included 124 children between the ages of 8 and 18. Sixty-two percent of the children were Hispanic, 27 percent were white and 11 percent were black. Fifty-six percent were male. More than half of the children -- 67
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