August 20, 2007
Virus Causes Obesity?

Here's yet another reason why people should stay home from work when they are sick. That wheezing and coughing guy over in the next cubicle might make you fat.

BOSTON, Aug. 20, 2007 — Scientists today reported new evidence that infection with a common virus may be a contributing factor to the obesity epidemic sweeping through the United States and other countries. In laboratory experiments they showed that infection with human adenovirus-36 (Ad-36), long recognized as a cause of respiratory and eye infections in humans, transforms adult stem cells obtained from fat tissue into fat cells. Stem cells not exposed to the virus, in contrast, were unchanged.

Vaccination against obesity. What a concept.

In addition, the study reported identification of a specific gene in the virus that appears to be involved in this obesity-promoting effect. The findings, which could lead to a vaccine or antiviral medication to help fight viral obesity in the future, were presented at the 234th national meeting of the American Chemical Society.

“We’re not saying that a virus is the only cause of obesity, but this study provides stronger evidence that some obesity cases may involve viral infections,” says study presenter Magdalena Pasarica, M.D., Ph.D., of the Pennington Biomedical Research Center, a campus of the Louisiana State University system.

Virus infection by itself is not sufficient to cause obesity.

“Not all infected people will develop obesity,” she notes. “We would ultimately like to identify the underlying factors that predispose some obese people to develop this virus and eventually find a way to treat it.”

Pasarica was part of the original research group which demonstrated that the Ad-36 virus was capable of causing animals infected with the virus to accumulate fat. Led by Nikhil Dhurandhar, Ph.D., now an associate professor at Pennington Biomedical Research Center, the group also conducted a noted epidemiologic study — the first to associate a virus with human obesity — showing 30 percent of obese people were infected with the Ad-36 virus in comparison to 11 percent of lean individuals. But evidence that the virus could actually cause fat levels to increase in human cells was lacking until now, Pasarica says.

This is more evidence for the argument of Paul Ewald and Greg Cochran that infections cause many more diseases than those historically thought to have infectious causes.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2007 August 20 09:20 PM  Brain Appetite

John said at August 21, 2007 7:38 AM:

Interesting stuff. This makes me wonder if:
1) Weight gain as you grow older is partially caused by repeated viral insults, i.e., your obesogenic viral load goes up.
2) Weight loss and maintenance is not simply a calorie thing. Eating good foods (fruits and vegetables) may enable you to
fight off these viruses and reduce inflammation. Increasing your food intake will also increase your intake of inflammatory compounds (maybe they're also created during digestion).

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