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Can a Virus Really Cause Obesity?

According to researchers from the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Louisiana, some cases of obesity can be caused by a virus just like the common cold. Their findings were presented at the 234th national meeting of the American Chemical Society.

The virus is called AD-36, an adenovirus which is easily spread through coughs, sneezes, and contact with those infected. Studies have shown that over 30 percent of obese adults have the AD-36 virus, compared to only 11 percent of thinner people.

Adenoviruses can cause eye infections and respiratory illness, ranging from mild colds to pneumonia. There are around 50 different known strains.

It is hard to tell if you have been infected with AD-36 because the first signs of infection are runny nose and sore throat, making it almost impossible to distinguish from the common cold.

As the virus progresses and circulates through your body, it causes fat cells to multiply and hold more fat than usual. This combination can lead to rapid weight gain.

Lead researcher Nikhil Dhurandhar notes that some people seem to be predisposed to the weight gaining effects of the virus whereas others are relatively unaffected. This may explain why the 11 percent of thin people affected by the virus do not become overweight.

The researchers conclude that although AD-36 is not the only cause of obesity, a significant number of cases may be due, in part, to viral infections. Lack of exercise and unhealthy diets are still, however, the number one cause for obesity.
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