1 in 3 People Infected by the Obesity Virus

Cartoon by Rob Rogers
Cartoon by Rob Rogers

Dr. Nikhil Dhurandhar of the Pennington Biomedical Research Center, claims that one in three fat people could have caught their obesity.”


Is he serious?

Oh yeah, he’s serious.

Dr. Dhurandhar and others at Pennington believe that “there is accumulating evidence that certain viruses may cause obesity, in essence making obesity contagious.”

I first read about this “obesity virus” theory almost three years ago.

At that time, researchers from the University of Wisconsin, Madison had identified 3 viruses (part of the adenovirus family) that could have been responsible for obesity in animals and humans.

Over the past few years, there has been even more research.

And tonight, on BBC2’s science program, Horizon, Dr. Dhurandhar will tell us all about the infectious AD-36 virus that is carried by a third of obese adults, compared to 11 per cent of lean men and women.

The good doctor will go on to explain how AD-36 “goes to the lungs and spreads through the body. When AD-36 hits your fat tissue, it replicates, increasing the number of new fat cells.

“This may explain why the fat tissue expands and why people get fat when they are infected with this virus.”

So, what do you think?

Is there really such a thing as an Obesity Virus?

The cynic in me wonders if this an attempt by drug researchers to create a “disease” in order to justify their “cure”?

Just think about it.

  • There are approximately 1.3 billion overweight or obese people on the planet today.
  • If one third of that population is afflicted with the obesity virus, we are looking at a little over 433 million potential infectees.
  • And, if we assume that the vaccine will cost users/insurance companies $100 per year, we are looking at potential sales of $43.3 billion dollars per year.
  • $43 billion…with a B

However, the optimist in me remembers that, at one time, we all thought that ulcers were caused by stress and spicy foods. Now we know about the link between ulcers and the H.pylori bacterium.

So, maybe there is something behind this obesity virus.

What do you think?


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  • It’s easier to blame something you have no control over like a virus instead of your own habits for being overweight. Perhaps a virus can make you more prone to keeping weight on by messing up your metabolism or something but cause obesity in the manner described in the article. No. Wake up people! Take control over your own life. No one else will for you.

  • Obesity – a virus? Hmmm, this theory is quite new to me.

    Right on, akhomeschoolfun…easier to blame obesity on something else rather than on ourselves.

  • Amen AKhomeschoolfun!

    Even if this “obesity virus” turns out to be legit, it will be years (if ever) before a vaccine is available. And even if there is a vaccine to cure this virus, wouldn’t that vaccine only prevent new cases?

    How would it reverse existing cases?

    But it sure would make a lot of $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

  • Pharmaceuticals are definitely more profitable than a doctor’s recommendation to stop grazing at Pizza Hut

  • Even if it is true there is obviously an environmental component to it too.

    1. Obesity tends to run in families
    2. Obesity is not found in people consuming non-westernised diets.
    3. Obesity in the USA is higher in the south than in the north. Surly these people are not more prone to the virus.

    Usual story – correlation does not equal causation. Perhaps the virus does better in fat people because they are less healthy and their immune system is compromised?

  • The fact that the virus is present in lean individuals should make researchers doubly question how it causes weight gain and for how long. Three months of weight gain does not an obese person make. I doubt the virus causes obesity, results in weight gain perhaps, but it’s a complex disease and not as simple as having an infection.

  • I read some more about this. It seems the percentages of infection are small. 33% of obese had the virus and 11% of the lean people had it in their LIFETIME. That seems like stretch. How long after getting the virus did they become obese? Were they already obese? Why didn’t everyone become obese? If it were more than half, then maybe. but only a third. I think it’s just an interesting correlation, not cause and effect.

  • It will probably turn out to be a red herring, but there will always be drug companies willing to pay for this research – Just think of the payoff for the company that actually invents a weight loss pill that works (without killing you in the process)

  • @ DR – Drug companies will try to turn obesity into a virus so we won’t be able to self medicate with the stuff you find in health food stores.

    But back on topic, it is a joke that people are trying to call it a virus. People really need to start taking responsibility for their own actions (i.e, eating too much)

  • Skinny people simply have good DNA. Or DNA that makes them a metabolic “clunker” in terms of fuel efficiency. What’ll fix obesity real good would be a Stalinist PLANNED FAMINE! Then the naturally skinnies will die off and the world could be fed with 1/3 of the food needed now. North Korea has no obesity problem. Gee, I wonder why. They are in a chronic famine!

    Short of planned famine, consider this: Oprah Winfrey is a billionaire yet chronically struggles with her weight despite having access to top-gun doctors, nutritionists, chefs, etc. If it was as easy as the skinnies say it is, she would look like an absolute supermodel. Also, with our cultural obsession with beauty and thinness, if it was so easy there would be NO fat people. It’s a little unrealistic to expect everyone to train for marathons to try to lose weight. That’s about what it’ll take. I bet orthopedic surgeons would love a permanent nationwide boot camp. Just think of all the knee replacements! (and replacing bearings on those knees later!) Eh, Doc. It’s my 6 year or 60,000 mile brake pad replacement….

  • Skinny people simply have good DNA.

    Of course they do.

    And all fat people are victims of their bad DNA.

    What a load of self-pitying bullshit.

    HealthHabits never said that weight loss is easy. It’s a complicated, frustrating experience. And if you rely solely on expert advice, you probably will be disappointed with the results.

    But giving up and blaming it all on bad dna is cowardice.

    You have a brain. Use it.

    You are your own personal science experiment. Play with calories and macronutrients and meal timing and supplements. Develop internal motivation. Look at your life and see how your day to day activities impact your dietary choices. Ask for help from people who actually give a shit about others.

    And ignore the people who say that weight loss is as simple as calories in vs calories out. They are wrong. And they are assholes.

  • In reply to Dr Dan’s comments:

    (1) Obesity tends to run in families. Yes, but that does not imply that obesity is hereditary, necessarily. Viruses and microbes also run in families: if one family member has say the AD-36 virus, it is likely that the others will eventually pick it up too, as viruses are often spread via household contact.

    (2) Agreed that correlation does not equal causation. However, evidence is gathering that our bodies are genetically pretty sound and reliable, AND THAT DISEASE IS VERY OFTEN CAUSED BY MICROBIAL INFILTRATION, not by wear and tear or similar factors.

    This MICROBIAL EXPLANATION FOR MANY DISEASES is wonderful news for the future, as it means if we figure out how to control and eliminate these microbes (viruses, bacteria , etc), we will eliminate the vast majority of human diseases, including obesity, and enter into a Golden Age of human health.

  • I love your ref to the ulcer science…
    …i guess it’s possible, but I don’t believe it. unless we can show that people who are “cured” or treated get “better”; i.e. less obese. doesn’t fish oil have that effect?

  • Achoo…you’re fat.
  • I totally appreciate the research presented here as it corroborates, but from a different angle, what was discovered a number of years ago by Jules Hirsch et al at Rockefeller University — namely that NEW fat cells, under the right conditions CAN be made in adulthood. For years, we thought that fat cells were only made during the pronounced growth spurts — first two years of life and then during puberty. See, the more fat cells one has,the more difficult weight loss (or should I say ‘fat loss’) becomes. Fat cells never go away, they only shrink. Now, if this organism (the virus) has been isolated that facilitates replication, IF some type of anti-viral treatment can be found, perhaps this could AID in the slimming process. STILL, diet and exercise would have to be optimized even if a treatment aide was developed. And, as with many viruses, there is no DIRECT treatment potion. So, we are back to the basics — healthy lifestyle, adequate hydration, and exercise. BUT, if, in susceptible people with the identified, diagnosed virus, a treatment is found to HELP — we need all the help we can get to decrease as many cases as possible this burgeoning travesty of humanity called obesity!

  • I love all of the science that goes into obesity research…absolutely love the stuff.

    But at the end of the day, they still don’t understand all of the mechanisms involved, so my faith that a cure is around the corner is slim to none. And like you said, it all comes back to the basics.

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