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Could a Type of Ear Infection Help Make Kids Obese?
Date:3/22/2011

By Amanda Gardner
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, March 21 (HealthDay News) -- New research hints at a surprising culprit for excess weight gain in kids: a certain type of ear infection.

The new study finds that chronic middle-ear infections with fluid are linked to alterations in children's taste buds that change their sensitivity to certain foods. This, in turn, might cause kids to eat more of these foods and push them towards obesity, the Korean researchers speculate.

But to see if chronic middle-ear infection actually helps cause obesity will take "larger studies with more patients," said Dr. Jeffrey P. Simons, assistant professor of otolaryngology at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh. "As an initial study it's very provocative," he noted.

"This doesn't necessarily mean that one causes the other," added Simons, who was not involved with the study. "There are a lot of risk factors for [this type of ear infection]," he said.

The findings are published in the March issue of Archives of Otolaryngology -- Head & Neck Surgery.

Chronic otitis media with effusion (OME) "is basically middle-ear fluid that is present in the absence of acute infection for three months or more," Simons explained. "It tends not to have the classic signs of acute inflammation like pain and bulging ear drum and fever, although there can be symptoms [such as] a clogged sensation in the ear or decreased hearing."

Researchers have already noted a possible link between childhood obesity and chronic OME. This team of investigators speculated that related changes in taste buds might connect the two. According to the study, chronic ear infection and inflammation might affect a particular nerve, the chorda tympani, that controls taste at the front of the tongue.

"The nerve that supplies taste to the front two-thirds of the tongue goes right through the middle ear where the fluid is sitting," Simons explained. "[Th
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