Scientists have linked being overweight to a virus, and say creating a vaccine could end the crisis – Dr C isn’t convinced
“Sadly the obesity jab isn’t a magic cure”
Avirus called A adenovirus-36, a common cold bug that is easily passed on through coughing and sneezing, is found four times more often among the obese than people with a healthy weight, and experts think a vaccine against it could halt obesity – but the problem is far too complex to solve with a jab. Research has only shown a possible link, so to say a vaccine can wipe out obesity is a stretch. Animals infected with the virus show several signs associated with obesity; they are heavier, have increased glucose absorption and lower secretion of leptin (a hormone that tells you to stop eating), so there’s a possible link, but so many factors cause us to become overweight and you can’t vaccinate against them all.
MAKE GOOD CHOICES
You could vaccinate everyone against this virus and we would still have an obesity problem, because we overeat and don’t move enough. Other research has shown there are 13 different genes associated with BMI, so it isn’t an easy fix. If every single baby at birth had their genes tested, we would know which medications would work and which would cause dangerous side effects; you could also look at the likelihood of catching main diseases, plus this virus, but even if you knew you’d be more likely to be obese, you’d still have to eat better and exercise more to stay slim, which is what you’d have to do regardless. This vaccine wouldn’t stop you getting fat if you still made bad choices!
KEEP A FOOD DIARY
I’ve spent a lot of time working with the morbidly obese and they simply cannot shift the weight. Lifestyle has played a part, but that shows there is something else going on, too. That’s where this jab, or something like it, may help. It’s such a struggle, once you’re obese, so if we can help people not get there in the first place, that has value. But I also have patients who tell me “I hardly eat, I don’t know why I’m this big”. I tell them to keep a food diary and it’s a real eye-opener, because it makes you aware of what you eat, and often you realise you’ve been kidding yourself.
CHANGE YOUR HABITS
We can’t dismiss this vaccine, but it wouldn’t be useful for everybody, and we don’t know if it will ever happen, so in the meantime nothing changes. If you’re overweight, don’t just accept it – try different types of exercise, keep a food diary and try to change your lifestyle for the better.