Obesity Might Be Contagious

Really. A "fat virus," similar to Flu virus might account for some 30% of the world's obesity problem, according to new research.

Richard Atkinson, MD, professor of medicine and nutrition at the University of Wisconsin has shown that when the virus, called Ad36, is given to chickens, mice, monkeys, and rats, their body fat increases by 50%-100% even though they ate the same amount as animals not given the virus. "The virus seems to change body composition, so there is an increased percentage of fat," says Atkinson."

Atkinson tested the blood of more than 500 obese and normal-weight eople. He found that 30% of obese people had antibodies to the virus, compared with just 10% of normal-weight people. "If you have antibodies to the virus, you have been exposed. People testing antibody-positive were quite significantly heavier," Atkinson said.

If his results are true, then the virus could be part of this worldwide epidemic of obesity, says Atkinson. "Of course diet and exercise are major issues but it's reasonable to understand that this virus is a contributing factor ... virtually everyone who gets this virus gains weight. It's a pretty robust phenomenon."


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