There is a lot of good advice to help us avoid becoming obese, such as "Eat less," and "Exercise." But here's a new and surprising piece of advice based on a promising area of obesity research: "Wash your hands."
There is accumulating evidence that certain viruses may cause obesity, in essence making obesity contagious . . .
The study, by Whigham, Barbara A. Israel and Richard L. Atkinson, of the University of Wisconsin, Madison, found that the human adenovirus Ad-37 causes obesity in chickens. This finding builds on studies that two related viruses, Ad-36 and Ad-5, also cause obesity in animals.
Moreover, Ad-36 has been associated with human obesity, leading researchers to suspect that Ad-37 also may be implicated in human obesity. Whigham said more research is needed to find out if Ad-37 causes obesity in humans. One study was inconclusive, because only a handful of people showed evidence of infection with Ad-37 ? not enough people to draw any conclusions, she said. Ad-37, Ad-36 and Ad-5 are part of a family of approximately 50 viruses known as human adenoviruses. . .
The notion that viruses can cause obesity has been a contentious one among scientists, Whigham said. And yet, there is evidence that factors other than poor diet or lack of exercise may be at work in the obesity epidemic. "The prevalence of obesity has doubled in adults in the United States in the last 30 years and has tripled in children," the study noted. "With the exception of infectious diseases, no other chronic disease in history has spread so rapidly, and the etiological factors producing this epidemic have not been clearly identified."
"It makes people feel more comfortable to think that obesity stems from lack of control," Whigham said. "It's a big mental leap to think you can catch obesity." However, other diseases once thought to be the product of environmental factors are now known to stem from infectious agents. For example, ulcers were once thought to be the result of stress, but researchers eventually implicated bacteria, H. pylori, as a cause.
"The nearly simultaneous increase in the prevalence of obesity in most countries of the world is difficult to explain by changes in food intake and exercise alone, and suggest that adenoviruses could have contributed," the study said. . .
There is still much to learn about how these viruses work, Whigham said. "There are people and animals that get infected and don't get fat. We don't know why," she said. Among the possibilities: the virus hasn't been in the body long enough to produce the additional fat; or the virus creates a tendency to obesity that must be triggered by overeating, she said.
Obesity may be "triggered by overeating". I suspect this is true.