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Can You 'Catch' Obesity?!

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There's a report circulating that obesity is something you can catch, like a virus ... and that it's contagious. Not so fast, says our pediatrician. She wants you to know you can't "catch" obesity.

fat Woman on an Exercise Bike

Today, we reported that scientists have declared obesity can be "caught" as easily as a common cold from other people's coughs, sneezes and dirty hands. The condition has been linked to a highly-infectious virus which causes sniffles and sore throats. Professor Nikhil Dhurandhar said the virus, known as AD-36, infects the lungs then whisks around the body, forcing fat cells to multiply and also causing sore throats. "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," Dhurandhar said. In one test, a third of obese people had the rare and highly contagious virus compared to just 11% of thinner people. Weight gain can last three months until the body has built up resistance to the bug.

But can you really "catch" obesity? Here's what our pediatrician Dr. Cara Natterson had to say:

"The Mayo Clinic, a highly esteemed clinical and research center, did report in 2007 that a number of viruses have been correlated with obesity," Dr. Cara explains. "But this doesn't mean that when you catch one of these viruses -- much like catching a cold -- your weight skyrockets. Rather, the viruses seem to affect the way triglycerides and adipocyets (fat cells) behave in some people. One virus in particular, AD-36, is found in about 30% of obese people, but it is also found in 11% of non-obese people. So what is the bottom line? Viruses may affect fat cells and triglycerides in some people, but there are clearly many other reasons that account for excessive weight gain. In my opinion, you can't 'catch' obesity."

Phew!

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