Monday, January 30, 2006


The Fat Virus

Are there more fat people these days? All of the speak a resounding, "Yes!" All of the fast food joints peddle to the masses. What if we were looking at this situation the wrong way? People consume cold medication because they're sick. What if they're dietary habits are being shaped in reaction to an illness: a virus. Leah D. Whigham, Barbara A. Israel, and Richard L. Atkinson have authored a paper entitled, "APPETITE, OBESITY, DIGESTION, AND METABOLISM" for the American Journal of Physiology suggests that a virus may cause obesity in some people. Human adenovirus-36 (Ad-36) increases fat build-up-- adiposity in chickens, mice, and nonhuman primates. It's also associated with human obesity. Ad-36 reduces serum cholesterol and triglycerides in animal models. Ad-36 promotes the build up of triglycerides. In the study, groups of chickens were given human Ad-2, Ad-31, Ad-37 at 3 weeks ofage. Food intake and weights were recorded for 3 and a half weeks. Then the chickens were killed and examined. The
visceral fat, body composition, serum lipids, and viral antibody status were determined.
Visceral fat and total body fat were significantly elevated. Final body weights were higher in chickens inoculated with Ad-37 compared with the groups that recieved the Ad-2 virus;but not significantly higher than in control or Ad-31 groups.

Food intake did not differ among groups.

With the same amount of caloric intake amongst roughly equivalent chickens, chickens with Ad-31 and Ad-37 had worse cholesterol and more fat that the other group.

So the questions:
  1. Is this really going on or is there a flaw in the study? Is the duration of obesity coincidental with the lifespan of the virus. In other words, if these chickens were allowed to continue on for another month, would they have cast off the virus and the associated obesity.
  2. Is this contagious? Are infected fat people making other people fat? If so, how? Are they sneezing chubbiness on others? Or, are they transmitting to offspring much in the way a mother shares HIV with a baby she carries to term.
  3. Is there a cure? The polio vaccines of the 1950s; the smallpox vaccine of the 1960s. Are we all going to line up for a shot in the arm that keeps our waistline slim?
  4. Does this study help to show the tenuous link between calories and obesity? If different groups recieved the same amount of food and some ended up fat and some didn't what does that say about us? Forget the virus: does this say that your cheeseburger packs a different punch than the exact same cheeseburger that your skinny friend scarfs down?

tags: obesity; cholesterol; triglycerides; virus; body weight; body fat

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