Is A Virus To Blame For Obesity? by Toby Amidor in Food News, March 18, 2009
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Since 1980, the rate of obesity has tripled in North America. This jaw-dropping statistic has scientists scrambling for answers to the cause of this epidemic. A new study says perhaps a common cold virus is to blame, but is it really?
The Latest Research
For the past 10 years, Dr. Nikhil Dhurandhar from Louisiana has been conducting studies on a common cold virus called Adenovirus-36. He believes this virus may interfere with a person’s normal metabolism and cause them to gain or retain weight. He found that 20% of his patients had the virus at some point in their life and were heavier than those who did not.
So, does this research prove that we can blame a virus for making us fat? The answer is no. This is one of many theories that have been proposed throughout the years.
One of the oldest obesity debates in the book is genetics versus environment. Are we born with a fat gene or do environmental contributors such as fast food joints popping up at every corner contribute to our obesity?
This 2007 ABC News article debunked the common myth of blaming your genes — and your parents! — based on a study released by the New England Journal of Medicine. A group of British scientists looked into 300 severely obese individuals, specifically their leptin gene (a hormone responsible for controlling appetite). The results showed that only 3% of the participants had an abnormal leptin gene — the rest had a normal fat gene.
In 2007, ABC News also released this article saying your friends and family may help make you fat. This study, which was also published in the New England Journal of Medicine, concluded that those closest to you share ideas about what is a healthy weight and how they live may affect your perceptions. And it’s not just your friends next door — the study showed that those living across the country may also impact your weight!
In 2006, another theory suggested that bacteria in the gut are to blame for making us fat and perhaps certain microbes cause people to gain weight. But before you start a colon cleansing diet or downing probiotics, know that many unanswered questions still exist on this theory and further research is needed.
So What Should Be Blamed?
Before we start another round of the blame game, remember that we can’t control a virus or our family genes. We can control other things that help battle obesity such as eating right and exercising. Instead of blaming others, let’s take action to become healthier together.