Health & Wellness

Can the common cold make you fat? (And you thought runny noses were bad)

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cold season

December is the month most people worry about gaining a few extra pounds, between the family gatherings, the friends’ parties and the sweet goodies lining the kitchen counters of your office. December is also the month most people worry about catching a cold…and now scientists are saying that the cold may be worse for your weight.

Excuse me?

According to a few studies, one being published in the journal Diabetes Care, a particular upper respiratory infection, the adenovirus 36, can be one reason for the obesity epidemic. "It's a slow process that works by changing your metabolic rate,” states Richard L. Atkinson, head of the Obetech Obesity Research Center in Richmond and a clinical professor of pathology at Virginia Commonwealth University, to “It takes a year or two to get really obese after you've been infected.”

He further explains that this virus stimulates the cells in fat tissues to produce more fat cells, which will ultimately store more fat. However, this virus takes a contradictive turn since it has also been shown to reduce cholesterol and triglycerides. So naturally, scientists now ponder if this virus can become a treatment for diabetes or high cholesterol.

After examining 1,400 people, study experts from Louisiana State University discovered that those who had tested positive for the antibodies to the virus gained “significantly more body fat” over the course of 10 years compared to those who did not have the virus. Also, the virus leaves the body within a month, so once the infected person has packed on the pounds, they are no longer contagious. So don’t go blaming your cubicle mate’s stuffy nose for those extra pounds.

While I’m never one to refute science, I can’t help but scratch my head with this one. There can be hidden reasons for weight gain, such as hormonal changes, lack of sleep, side effects to medications and/or thyroid issues. But the common cold? It sounds so…common. News like this concerns me because it could be made the scapegoat for the unhealthy number on the scale. If you watch what you eat and live healthily, you won’t catch this weird fat cold and you won’t gain weight. How about that for a cure?

A version of this story originally appeared on iVillage.