Public health authorities do regard obesity as a children’s health hazard. But is there a chance that obesity in children could be more than that? Could it be a contagious epidemic? Scientists believe that there is a virus for the common cold, the adenovirus 36, that obese children catch and regular children do not. So far, the relationship is only circumstantial as far as scientists are concerned. If it turns out that this special kind of common cold virus does have something to do with obesity, treatments for children one day could be devised to aim for the virus and not just the child’s eating and exercise habits.
In the history of medical science, they’ve suspected connections between seemingly unconnected causes and effects before. For instance, about a century ago, scientists and doctors felt that ulcers were the result of stress and too much stomach acid, eating its way through the lining of the stomach. People who suffered from ulcers received the advice to merely rest and make sure they didn’t eat anything spicy. It was only as recently as 1982 that scientists first began to suspect that the bacteria H. pylori could be the cause of ulcers after all. For a full decade after that, scientists scoffed at the idea. Before they began to accept it. Today, H. pylori antibiotics are an important part of any ulcer regimen.
It was only in a recent issue of Pediatrics that scientists first published their suspicions that children who contracted a cold caused by the adenovirus 36 were more likely than anyone else to have weight problems. They found that a quarter of all children who fight obesity have antibodies to the adenovirus 36 in their systems. That means that they have caught that kind of cold and struggled with it so that their bodies could develop antibodies against it. Only about one in twenty normal children usually have those antibodies. Still, this isn’t a waterproof connection by any stretch of the imagination.
Lots of children who have antibodies to the virus managed to not get obese. So the theory where obesity is all because of a virus is not entirely a proven fact. A healthy diet and plenty of exercise are still your number one hope of getting your child down to a normal weight. Even if it is proven that a virus is a part of the mix, a person’s genetics and habits are still important factors. Still, if the virus connection is established, new medications might make it quite a bit easier for children to lose weight.