IS OBESITY CONTAGIOUS?
Most doctors have heard their obese patients blame their condition on their glands, or their metabolism, or their genes, but they might soon be hearing a different excuse. This time it could be that they "caught" their obesity from their spouse or a close colleague, in much the same way as they might catch a cold.
In a paper published in the August issue of International Journal of Obesity ("Increased adiposity in animals due to a human virus"; Dhurandhar et al, IJO 24(8):989-996), a group from the University of Wisconsin have shown that inoculating chickens and mice with a human adenovirus (Ad-36) causes them to gain excessive amounts of fat. Not only did they gain more than the controls, they also gained more than a group of chickens inoculated with another virus, an avian adenovirus called CELO. This indicates that the excessive fat deposition was not a non-specific effect in response to any viral infection. The mechanism causing the obesity is not known, but does not appear to be due to increased food intake and would implicate a decrease in energy expenditure as the cause.
In chickens, there was no evidence of the AD-36 virus causing damage to those parts of the brain (hypothalamus) that control energy balance. This is the first report of adiposity induced in animals by a human virus.
Data from these animal models suggest that the role of viral diseases in the etiology of human obesity must be considered.
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Message posted by: Trevor M. D'Souza
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