Obesity can be caused by a virus and can be caught like the common cold, say researchers at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Louisiana. The highly-infectious virus, an adenovirus called AD-36, can be caught as easily as a cold from the coughs, sneezes and hands of those infected.
Once caught, the virus circulates through the body causing runny noses and sore throats. It also causes fat cells to multiply and can lead to massive weight gain.
“This virus goes to the lungs and spreads through the body,” said Nikhil Dhurandhar, an associate professor at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. “It goes to various organs and tissues such as the liver, kidney, brain and fat tissue,” Dhurandhar told BBC2’s “Horizon” program.
“When this virus goes to fat tissue it replicates, making more copies of itself and in the process increases the number of new fat cells, which may explain why the fat tissue expands and why people get fat when they are infected with this virus.”
Victims of the virus could remain infectious up to three months.
Studies show that 33 percent of all obese adults have the AD-36 virus compared to only 11 percent of thinner people. Tests in animals infected with the virus gained weight more quickly than those animals not infected even when they did not eat more.
Regardless of the virus’ role in causing obesity, most scientists agree that the single largest cause of obesity is eating too many and too much of the wrong foods.
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