Escaping the common cold and flu can be difficult, especially for children. They play in close contact with others, forget to wash their hands, and often share food with their friends. When they do get influenza parents often worry that it could lead to weight loss; however, recent research suggests feeding a fever that comes with the cold and flu could actually make you fat.
No one has an iron-clad immune system. In fact, very few of us can say we don’t get a cold and flu from time to time, but if you have young children, maintaining a strong immune system may be a bigger priority, particularly if weight is a concern for your kids. New research in the journal “Pediatrics” suggests there is a link between influenza and obesity.
A research team from Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego tested over 100 children for antibodies to a certain form of virus that causes sore throat, fever, diarrhea, and other cold and flu like symptoms. On average kids who tested positive for the virus were 15 pounds heavier than children who had not contracted this strain of the cold and flu. When obese children were examined, the positive group was 35 pounds heavier than obese kids who had not been exposed to the virus. This suggests that there could be a link between the influenza virus and obesity.
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In the past, animal studies have shown that this same virus increases body fat; however, the nature of the link isn’t completely understood. Researchers speculate that the virus could cause weight gain or that those who are overweight could be more susceptible to the virus known as AD36 infection.
About 17 per cent of children between the ages of 2 and 19 are considered obese. The Center for Disease Control reports that since 1980 obesity among children has almost tripled. Obese children run the risk of having high blood pressure, high cholesterol, breathing problems; type 2 diabetes, joint problems, gallstones, as well as social and psychological problems.
Studies have shown that the old adage “feed a cold, starve a fever” is not sound advice; that our bodies in fact need the nutrients in good food to help strengthen the immune system when we are fighting influenza. The challenge for many children with the AD36 infection is not consuming too many calories that could lead to more weight gain. Lots of fruits and vegetables that are high in vitamins, minerals, and water content are highly recommended.
The findings reported in “Pediatrics” opens the door for a lot more research on the relationship between influenza and obesity. If further studies can support a strong link, biomedical experts say it just might be possible to one day develop a vaccine to prevent obesity.
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