Common Virus Linked to Obesity

September 24, 2010 | Byron J. Richards, Board Certified Clinical Nutritionist

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 Common Virus Linked to Obesity
The latest study on adenovirus 36 (AD36)1 is causing quite a stir. A group of 124 children were tested for antibodies to AD36 to determine prior infection (and possible current infectious activity). Antibodies were present in 19 children and 15 of these children were significantly obese. Of the 67 obese children in the study, 1 in 5 had AD36 as part of the problem. Shockingly, the children with AD36 infection were on average 50 pounds heavier than those without the infection.

I have been following this story for a number of years; it keeps getting more interesting. AD36 is one of the 50 or so viruses in the adenovirus family. These viruses are responsible for about 10% of respiratory, eye, throat, and digestive infections in children. One of the versions of this virus, AD36, appears to attack and damage white adipose tissue, leading to a significant increase of abdominal fat – even from eating a normal amount of calories.

Many viruses can linger in the liver or voice box and reactivate during times of stress, poor diet, a lack of sleep, or upon infection with a new virus. It appears that in some, the AD36 virus remains active in white adipose tissue long after acute infection symptoms have passed. A new gene study2 showed that AD36 actively turns off fat burning while turning on fat storage.

The exact consequences of how to identify this as part of the problem or its precise interaction with metabolic hormones is not entirely clear3. Sometimes triglycerides and cholesterol have been reported as elevated4 and other times they have been reported as lower than normal. The AD36 antibody test is not a direct measure of active infection in fat, but is an accurate measure of previous exposure to the virus which may still be active in fat.

It does appear that leptin levels in the blood are low6 in AD36 infected individuals. This means that the AD36 virus punches fat cells in the nose so bad that they can't even make leptin. This is quite different than the typical high levels of leptin in the blood that are often seen with common leptin resistance. In both conditions leptin is not getting into the brain in adequate amounts, in turn causing increased appetite.

So the constellation of a really big gut that is difficult to change, a history with upper respiratory/ear infections even as a child, elevated AD36 antibodies, and low blood levels of leptin would be about the best way of trying to figure out if this problem may be part of your own weight issues.

This subject is still in its infancy in terms of science and there is no data of any kind currently published that shows that any type of anti-viral strategy improves the situation, although that would be the seemingly logical conclusion. This means that individuals who think they may have this problem could try non-toxic viral support to see if it can help them on a path of weight loss.

Referenced Studies

  1. ^ Adenovirus 36 and Obesity in Children and Adolescents.  Pediatrics.  Gabbert C, Donohue M, Arnold J, Schwimmer JB.
  2. ^ Adenovirus 36 Blocks Fat Metabolism and Increases Fat Storage  Int J Obes (Lond).  Wang ZQ, Yu Y, Zhang XH, Floyd EZ, Cefalu WT.
  3. ^ Adenovirus-36 Increases Abdominal Fat But Not Liver Fat  Liver Int.   Trovato GM, Martines GF, Garozzo A, Tonzuso A, Timpanaro R, Pirri C, Trovato FM, Catalano D.
  4. ^ Adenovirus-36 Linked to High Lipids in Children  Int J Obes (Lond).  Na HN, Hong YM, Kim J, Kim HK, Jo I, Nam JH.
  5. ^ Adenovirus-36 Increases Risk for Obesity with Lower Lipid Scores  Int J Obes (Lond).   Atkinson RL, Dhurandhar NV, Allison DB, Bowen RL, Israel BA, Albu JB, Augustus AS.
  6. ^ Adenovirus-36 Reduces Leptin  Int J Obes (Lond).  Vangipuram SD, Yu M, Tian J, Stanhope KL, Pasarica M, Havel PJ, Heydari AR, Dhurandhar NV.

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