Carfeful, my fat ass could be catching.

A very interesting article over at Science Blog talks about the possibility that obesity may be caused by adenoviruses, at least in part:

“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. “The role of adenoviruses in the worldwide epidemic of obesity is a critical question that demands additional research.”

The theory that viruses could play a part in obesity began a few decades ago when Nikhil Dhurandhar, now at Pennington Biomedical Research Center at LSU, noticed that chickens in India infected with the avian adenovirus SMAM-1 had significantly more fat than non-infected chickens. The discovery was intriguing because the explosion of human obesity, even in poor countries, has led to suspicions that overeating and lack of exercise weren’t the only culprits in the rapidly widening human girth. Since then, Ad-36 has been found to be more prevalent in obese humans.

In my case I’m pretty sure it’s the fact that I eat more than I should and I don’t exercise much beyond hauling my ass up and down the basement steps to get to my computer, but I’m not as heavy as some of the folks in my family are either. The article goes on to point out that the evidence is still sketchy at best and there’s still a lot of work to be done before they can say anything conclusive one way or the other, but there’s certainly some indication that this is a theory worth pursuing especially if a vaccine could be developed to counteract it. This would go a long way to explaining why there are some folks have tried dozens of diets and exercise programs and ended up with only marginal weight loss.

5 thoughts on “Carfeful, my fat ass could be catching.

  1. Very neat. I was always on the opposite end, and excuses for my body were never demanded – I ate what I wanted, never excercised. Yet I had a slender, muscular body and the immune system of an ox. People never gave me the “get in shape” thing, they just said “oh, some people are like that”, when I popped the question as to why my body was the way it was. It always made me wonder if we weren’t inadvertantly dismissing something important. It just seemed so presumptuous; like, we have the answers when it comes to one body and not to the other on the opposite end of the scale.

  2. I’m still pretty sure those relatives of mine who come home from their desk jobs and beach themselves on the couch have only themselves to blame, unless “adenovirii” can be transmitted via Comedy Central airings of Tom Arnold’s remake of McHale’s Navy.

    My own take on the obesity surge mostly involved first Coca-Cola, then everyone else, switching sweeteners from cane sugar to Partially Hydrogenated Corn Syrup. You know you can’t properly digest that stuff, right?

  3. I’d give a bit of credibility to the virus idea.
    In 1992 I had a terrible sinus infection.  A month of antibiotics, a lab culture, a fungus infection as an aside ailment.
    For several months, I could barely smell anything.  I gained 50 pounds in 6 months even though my food intake was the same or less.

    That was years ago now.  I’d say the reason the weight is still here is same as yours.  No moving around and my love for grilled cheese sandwiches.

    But still, I look back at that year when I was sick, and recognize it as a boundary line of Before and After.

  4. Hmmm, when I read the line “Carfeful, my fat ass could be catching” I immediately wondered who was pitching. Why would that be my first thought? tongue wink

  5. The data could also suggest that slightly warmer or more food laden vessels e.g. large or obese animals could
    instead be a more hospitible environment for said
    “adenoviruses”. viruses are usually pretty tough but every organism has its comfort zone that it does best in.. the margin may be as small as a quarter or a half a degree of average body temp.

    Obesity a better carrier, not the cause of?

    Am I nuts or does anyone else see this as a possibility?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.