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Blame Your Weight Gain On A Virus

January 4th, 2017
bathroom scaleCould last year's weight gain be caused by a virus? It's a tantalizing question that biologists are just beginning to explore. And what they are beginning to suspect is that for some of us, the answer is yes.

Texas Tech Professor Nikhil Dhurandhar believes an adenovirus, the kind of virus that causes the common flu, may also cause obesity. Years ago, as a budding medical researcher in his home country of India, Dr. Dhurandhar noticed that the chickens succumbing in an epidemic were fat, rather than emaciated as might be expected. His studies showed nearly all were infected with a virus he called SMAM-1.

As a postdoctoral student at the University of Wisconsin, he discovered that a similar virus, AD-36, was present in obese humans.

The evidence is still circumstantial; it's based on multiple studies of obese studies, but no virus has ever been shown to cause obesity. Infecting humans to see what happens would be unethical.

jeffrey Schwimmer, an associate professor of clinical pediatrics at
the University of California, San Diego, led one study of children, finding that of 124 children some 20% of those considered obese carried the virus. Among those who were confirmed infected with AD-36, four out of five were obese.

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