Also, if I'm a ruthless chicken farmer wouldn't I want all my chickens to have this since it makes them heavier based on the same food intake?
Finally, what's going on with the people who have the antibody but haven't gained weight? What's different about their immune function, diet and/or lifestyle.
>Allison first stumbled across evidence of overweight animals while looking at data on marmosets from the Wisconsin National Primate Research Center. The average weight of the monkeys had gone up over the decades, he noticed, and there seemed to be no plausible explanation. Allison queried primate center researcher Joseph Kemnitz as to what the cause might be: Were the marmosets from a different supplier? Had they been bred to be larger? The answers were "no" and "no."
>But the monkeys' diets had been changed over the years, a switch that was well-documented by the lab. So Allison tried running the numbers again, this time controlling for the diet change.
>"It only made the results stronger," he said. With the diet change, the animals should have lost weight, if anything.
I think the far more likely explanation is that they don't have a complete understanding of nutrition and their expectations about the diet change were wrong.
"But we put the marmosets on a No-Fat diet! They should be losing weight!"
And given the low cost and overhead of fresher food, many research animals I've been involved with in a past life are pretty well compared to th humans overseeing them.
My guess is this virus would be equally prevalent in North America and Western Europe and therefore as a matter of public health has no impact whatsoever on obesity.
Instead, in my reading in North America it is very difficult to eat in a healthy way and in my personal experience people are eager to find reasons other than the food supply, tastes, and behaviors.
If, on the other hand, this virus was prevalent in North America but very rare in Western Europe it would give some indication that perhaps it was worthy of attention. I would like to know if anyone has applied this differential.
For example,  (2010) reports that ~5% of people in the US were positive for Ad36, 35% Thailand, 52% South Africa, 91%(!) Malawi, 88% Cameroon, 48% Botswana, 43% Brazil. Malawi, Cameroon, Thailand and Botswana are solidly in the lower % obesity parts of the map that you linked to, while the US has the lowest antibody prevalence and highest obesity. They don't have Ad36 data for Europe unfortunately, but ...
Ad36 is not the only adipogenic (fat-causing) serotype. Ad5, 9, 31, 36 and 37 are all correlated or linked to being adipogenic . The above paper  has numbers for Ad5 if you're interested: Europe was 39% negative, US 31%, the African countries 10-13%, Brazil 18%.
As a hypothesis you could create a mathematical model where the faster a country industrializes or otherwise moves beyond bare subsistence and periodic famine, the harder the spike of obesity.
That's not a bad match to existing obesity maps, especially when the obesity map is corrected for country of origin not current geographic location.
So while you support the argument I was making, I actually would prefer to see data about incidence in Western Europe - not the countires you listed.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_GDP_(PPP)... - (I'm using the first column, International Monetary Fund (2015))
A reasonable hypothesis, given a virus that sucks glucose out of the blood and fills tissue with fat, is that the higher blood glucose levels of type 2 diabetes would supercharge fat production in those infected with the virus.
So if the patient is infected, and their blood sugar goes up 20%, their fat production will go up 20% regardless of diet. I can see how that would quickly result in very fat diabetes patients.
It would be fascinating to separate the disease symptoms of type-2 diabetes that are caused solely by obesity from those caused solely by blood sugar.
Obviously it would be easier to recover from type-2 diabetes related obesity if a viral infection that essentially creates fat were not turbocharged because of blood chemistry reasons at the same time as the patient is trying to lose fat.
Another interesting study would be children. Anecdotally they can eat hundreds of pounds of sugar and dozens of gallons of corn syrup and remain skinny, until suddenly, perhaps after infection, or perhaps after their pancreas gives out causing a blood sugar rise, they explode in fatness given the same or even lower carb intake.
Quite possibly due to the infection, high blood sugar is causing fatness rather than the other way around, with some interesting implications for treatment. Normally artificially lowering blood sugar would seem to shove it into the fat generation path, but if high blood sugar is turbo charging the infection, perhaps lower blood sugar levels would paradoxically cause weight loss...
You could also run a study of low carb diet success and failure vs infection rate. People with low level semi-diagnosed type-2 diabetes (its a spectrum not a binary) should respond extremely well to a low carb weight loss diet... uninfected people or people infected but without type-2 symptoms should not respond very well to a low carb weight loss diet.
>in my reading in North America it is very difficult to eat in a healthy way and in my personal experience people are eager to find reasons other than the food supply, tastes, and behaviors.
You hit the nail on the head, this is probably why this story got as many votes as it did.
I love that quote, I can't remember seeing it before.
I assume they mean three possible ways and that only one of them is probably happening or do they think all three are happening (required)? I doubt all three would be happening but I could be wrong.
Minor nitpick... Is the list ordered by some priority or is it arbitrary (and if arbitrary bullet points or hyphens would be nice instead of emphasizing the count).
That summary at the end indicates that the researchers believe all 3 are happening.
Anyway, here are some points of interest:
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4517116/ "Adenovirus 36 and Obesity: An Overview" -- non-paywalled full text!
Adenovirus 36 attenuates weight loss from exercise (!) but improves glycemic control by increasing mitochondrial activity in the liver.
Adenovirus 36 antibody detection: Improving the standard serum neutralization assay. (The first assay I heard of, in 2001, cost about $500 then.)
Proof-of-concept for a virus-induced obesity vaccine; vaccination against the obesity agent adenovirus 36
Hepatic Expression of Adenovirus 36 E4ORF1 Improves Glycemic Control and Promotes Glucose Metabolism via AKT Activation
I am glad though they are researching this. If a vaccine could be found, it might decrease risk for a significant portion of the population. It does not negate the fact that dish portions in North America are much larger than they should be or that there is still too much processed food in the average american diet.
Here's another (in mice, not sure if they've tried people yet): http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-22458428
The best thing people can do to change their gut flora is to cut back on sugar and increase dietary fibre.
But it's also raising hard questions about why we think it's okay to sell so much sugar in foods...
The best thing people can do to change their gut flora
One possibility is that a host that gains weight easily will be more resilient in times of famine.
> Though Dhurandhar and Atkinson have conducted several strong studies showing the contribution of Ad-36 to fatness, skepticism remains. Atkinson says, “I remember giving a talk at a conference where I presented 15 different studies in which Ad-36 either caused or was correlated to fatness.
Though Dhurandhar and Atkinson have conducted several strong studies showing the contribution of Ad-36 to fatness, skepticism remains. Atkinson says, “I remember giving a talk at a conference where I presented 15 different studies in which Ad-36 either caused or was correlated to fatness. At the end of it, a good friend said to me, ‘I just don’t believe it.’ He didn’t give a reason; he just didn’t believe it. People are really stuck on eating and exercise as the only contributors to fatness. But there is more to it.”
Edit: The next paragraph seems to be also very relevant, so again reprinted for those who do not want to click through:
Dhurandhar adds, “There’s a difference between science and faith. What you believe belongs in faith and not in science. In science you have to go by data. I have faced people who are skeptical, but when I ask them why, they can’t pinpoint a specific reason. Science is not about belief, it is about fact. There is a saying—‘In God we trust, all others bring data.’”
Why is a gut feeling relevant?
The anecdote you were compelled to add is journalistic flare and is immaterial to the conclusion drawn from actual studies, which I quoted originally.
> People ignore the results
The tldr was a reference to the studies and their results...
I like that. We put it in the title above, as well as changing linkbait 'the' to modest 'a'.
If anyone can suggest a better (i.e. more accurate and neutral) title, we can change it again.
I disagree about "The", though. Much like "this", it's a clickbait device—somehow it grabs attention whether it deserves it or not. And it's misleading, too, because it implies there's only one of the thing.
In modern society, people generally eat ridiculously calorie dense overprocessed garbage food that ravages insulin sensitivity and then they remain inactive for 23+ hours a day, barely shuffling from a car to a desk to a car to a couch. Unsurprisingly, they gain weight.
Raw calories in calories out surely plays a part, but many people eat 1.5x their daily burn with no discernable weight gain.
Obesity, like most human conditions including "sick" and "cancer" are actually a family of related conditions with overlapping symptoms.
Also, dietary guidelines for caloric intake are far too high for a modern sedentary lifestyle. There was actually a study about this recently discussed here:
And yes very rarely there may be some underlying condition. But that is indeed rare. Keep in mind obesity was practically nonexistent 40 and 50 years ago.
It's extremely easy to say, "Oh those people are fat because they're sedentary." Re-examine this though, because it's a variant of a common "you get what you deserve" mindset that plagues health issues for many people contracting conditions that cause society to look down on them.
It's also untrue that obesity didn't exist in the 50s, however even if it was less prevalent ... it's simply not true that people were substantially less sedentary in the extremes back then. If anything, employment was MORE demanding of a sedentary lifestyle.
It's probably a combination of multiple factors including things like available diet options, a reduction in habits like smoking with proven weight reduction side effects, etc. Is it really unimaginable that a virus makes people on certain diets more prone to obesity, requiring substantially more work to reduce weight?
What's more, given that employment is a precursor to survival in our society and it is difficult to obtain and maintain employment while obese, it seems to behoove us to examine every avenue we have to make sure we can resolve those conditions regardless of value judgement about lifestyle. A strictly capitalist analysis of the situation suggests preventative and accessible care will be substantially cheaper and more productive than the "let them die of poverty-related complications in the streets" approach should people fall out of where the system can reach.
Allowing health insurers to adjust rates based on BMI would be a capitalist/market based solution as well. Dietary choices would directly impact a persons health care costs. That is also currently not allowed.
If you're concerned about market approaches for some reason, you could go the government sin tax route and tax BMI on a progressive scale, and also tax sugar and carbohydrate products. Dietary choices would directly impact someones costs. Considering junk food is an unhealthy lifestyle choice, that particular idea is not any different from taxing alcohol, smoking or gambling.
In the meantime, related health care costs will keep rising.
Nah, because this is a terrible outcome on a few levels. Let's cut over it:
1. BMI is widely acknowledged as a terrible metric of health best relegated to old high school textbooks about "overall health-wellness". It's basically statistical noise outside extreme outliers on either end of the spectrum. And yet, people here keep offering it because they seem opposed to modern health education.
2. Capitalism is ultimately built on a foundation of a relatively stable workforce. Without a constant infusion of human capital it's profoundly shortsighted and suboptimal to simply let people die in the streets. It takes time to train people, and so it makes sense to maintain their health.
3. The cheapest healthcare by leaps and bounds is preventative. So if we take it as a given that a stable workforce is good for the long term growth of industry then it makes sense for us to act early, prescriptively and preventatively.
Of course, I personally find these motivations vile. It is a profoundly silly idea that unguided capitalism should be the gatekeeper of health care. A more mercurial and senseless angel of death you could not dream in your darkest nightmares.
But unless we're happy with a society built on building lots of money for a few people in castles surrounded by dead bodies, we probably need to reconsider our stance on health care.
And I'm a bit disturbed at the confidence you show in debating this subject given how many misconceptions you seem to have about it.
Even in 1962 (54 years ago) the prevalence of adult obesity was 13% in the US -- and it has increased steadily since -- so it was very far from "practically non-existent" 50, and even moreso 40, years ago; to the extent you might have some legitimate point, ludicrous hyperbole like this tends to obscure it.
-- The literal part of the comment was misinformation.
-- The subtext of the message was flamebait, implying that people are fat simply because they cram too much food down their throats.
-- No response would have just left the false information hanging thus validating the idea. Therefore no response was not a useful option. (Think anti-vaxers. Don't want to leave misinformation alone because it propagates.)
-- A response that talked to the points made in the comment would have validated both the text and subtext even further.
My response pointing out I was aware of the misinformation and the subtext to let the poster know I wasn't going to validate it nor accept it seemed to be the appropriate solution.
What would have been the proper response that would nullify both the misinformation presented in the comment AS WELL AS the subtext?
"Congratulations on completely not understanding" --> snark and personal swipe—definitely uncivil.
"the entire issue of weight gain and obesity research that's been happening for the last 15 years" --> ok, but just mentioning this isn't the same as saying anything substantive about it.
"You win all the prizes" --> more snark and personal swipe
Civility is most important, so if you'd dropped the first and third bits and kept the second, we wouldn't have chided you. But if you wanted to post a good comment, it could have begun like this:
Obesity research for the last 15 years has shown there's a lot more to this. For example, ... and then add something specific.
Consider how much more polite and specific KirinDave's reply was: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13267354.
No, No, Absolutely not!
Don't you understand?! Anything specific would legitimizing the comment and subtext of the posters comment. This feeds into a false narrative that's been going on for years.
Anything without snark would have made the commentator's message seem legitimate! Only the snark shuts down false "scientific sounding" narrative and the fat shaming subtext.
KirinDave's reply, while well intentioned, still feeds into this narrative and allows the commenter to continue arguing that fat people just need to buckle down and stop shoveling food in order to balance calories.
We'll disagree on this. I think a lack of civility and the addition of snark is indeed called for in these types of comments. However, I understand your comments and realize that the mods make the community. Time for me to step away I guess.
The mechanism to how the virus works is unclear as stated by the article (3 possible ways were alleged) as well as how so many do what you just did: assume that a virus has little role and that it is the patients fault:
Atkinson says, “I remember giving a talk at a conference where I presented 15 different studies in which Ad-36 either caused or was correlated to fatness. At the end of it, a good friend said to me, ‘I just don’t believe it.’ He didn’t give a reason; he just didn’t believe it. People are really stuck on eating and exercise as the only contributors to fatness. But there is more to it.”
Did you actually read the article?
Also (original) OP seems to assume starvation mode is as healthy as normal mode, which is ... questionable at best. Yes if a tapeworm is sucking glucose out of your blood, as long as it doesn't suck too much and kill you, you'll either have to go into starvation fat burning mode essentially permanently as long as you're infected which might have some negative long term side effects, or you can try to live normally which will result in obesity. Aside from the medical problems from living in permanent starvation mode, I imagine the psychological experience is incredibly unpleasant.
From memory starvation is contraindicated for recovery from surgery, pregnancy, and athletic training. I wonder how many infected people die after a relatively boring surgery because either they're fat or they're starving so they can't recover correctly. Or miscarriages where the body thinks its in deep starvation mode so better the mother survive than take them both down, despite normal food intake. Aside from the obvious pregnancy complications from obesity, of course.
Any way you look at it, that virus needs eradicating.
(In particular, to break the cycle we'd have to start by teaching people better biology — it's no good arguing with people's morals if you don't start from the same basis of facts as them.)
The article shares a boatload of interesting, relevant evidence of a correlation between certain viruses and fat.
Plus, the article actually expresses some doubt that the "hook" was the cause (it was not a hook, it was a rooster's talon)
Or is it a social virus, which has something to do with habits, social norms, junk food and lifestyle of over-consumption?
"The" is very misleading, so is "Cause Obesity".
Wouldn't "A Mysterious Virus That Could Interfere With Hunger" be much more accurate?
"Cause Obesity" sounds like it is the entire reason behind all of obesity, not just one of the multiple factors.
As the weight gain effect can be reproduced in animals I wonder whether there is more animal blood and cell data that could provide clues on the underlying mechanism. I can't imaging they only used a scale to measure the outcome but then the proof is in the pudding.
> reduce heat production
Then what? It only takes a few hundred kcals of lesser heat production to reduce an adult body a few degrees, which would cause severe hypothermia.
> there's no hard requirement it burns fat
To what extent? Are you saying he would die of starvation before losing significant weight?
You can't without limit, obviously, but since muscle has a much lower per-pound energy content than fat, it's quite possible to eat at a deficit and gain weight while decreasing body fat %.
But, more to the point, a virus can affect, what and how much you are inclined to eat, how efficiently or not your body absorbs nutrients, and a number of other factors which influence whether or not you experience a deficit in the first place.
You can't create mass out of nowhere. If you transform fat into muscle, you still have the same amount of the same atoms, and thus weight the same.
No, I'm not.
> You can't create mass out of nowhere.
Calories measure energy content, not mass.
> If you transform fat into muscle, you still have the same amount of the same atoms
No, you don't.
> and thus weight the same.
Yes, if you trade one pound of fat for one pound of muscle, weight is the same. But since fat has an energy content around 3500kcal/pound and muscle is, IIRC, around 750kcal/pound, that corresponds to more than a 2500kcal calorie deficit with no weight change.
> since fat has an energy content around 3500kcal/pound and muscle is, IIRC, around 750kcal/pound, that corresponds to more than a 2500kcal calorie deficit with no weight change
Feel free to ask a friend with chemistry or physics background why this is completely wrong and goes against everything we know about matter and energy.
This is just question-begging. The proposed mechanism is that the virus alters what a deficit is.
This one should clearly be changed. What to change it to is not as clear. We've given it a shot.