AOL News has a new home! The Huffington Post.

Click here to visit the new home of AOL News!

Hot on HuffPost:

See More Stories

Surge Desk

Fattening Flu? Childhood Obesity Linked to Cold Virus

Sep 20, 2010 – 11:02 AM
Text Size
(Sept. 20) -- Researchers think they've found another piece to the complex puzzle of what's causing a rise in childhood obesity worldwide: Kids who've suffered from a common cold virus are also more likely to be significantly heavier than their peers.

What the study found
In a small study of 124 youths, slightly more than half of them obese, researchers concluded that 15 obese children had antibodies for the virus known as AD36 -- meaning they'd suffered from it at some point -- compared with only four normal-weight children.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 16 percent of children in the US ages 6-19 years are overweight or obese, three times the amount since 1980.
Justin Sullivan, Getty Images
Sixteen percent of children in the U.S. aged 6 to 19 are overweight or obese, a threefold increase since 1980, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

And in a comparison of obese participants who did and didn't have the AD36 antibodies, those who did were significantly larger.

"This shows that body weight regulation and the development of obesity are very complicated issues," Dr. Jeffrey Schwimmer, the study's lead author, told MSNBC. "It's not simply a case that some children eat too much and others don't."

What's the link between the cold virus and obesity?
It's too early to tell if the virus is causally linked to obesity: The possibility exists that overweight kids are simply more vulnerable to the illness. But prior laboratory and animal studies of AD36 suggest that the virus actually boosts production of fat cells and might even spur existing cells to store greater quantities of fat.

AD36 is a remarkably common viral strain, responsible for flare-ups of respiratory ailments, gastrointestinal upset and even eye infections.

What's next?
Even if subsequent studies confirm the AD36-obesity link, few options exist to help affected kids. There's no routine test to screen for AD36, nor are there vaccines to prevent it.

Sponsored Links
"People want a magic solution," Dr. Goutham Rao, clinical director of the Weight Management and Wellness Center at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, told U.S. News & World Report. "Unfortunately, we don't have one. What people can do is focus on a child's behaviors and eliminate the unhealthy behaviors."

But the political debate over just how to go about changing unhealthy behaviors remains as contentious as ever. Just last weekend, Fox News host Glenn Beck mocked first lady Michelle Obama's "healthy foods" campaign, saying, "The first politician that comes up to me with a carrot stick, I've got a place for it. And it's not in my tummy."
Filed under: Science, Health, Surge Desk