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Can ear infections be the cause of weight gain? Research points to yes.

2008-08-30 17:29:47 (GMT) ( - Health & Law, World)


West Palm Beach, Florida ( – News Report) – Those who had a history of chronic childhood ear infections may be prone to craving fats and sweets, leading to overweight or even obese individuals. Taste and hearing experts researched that constant ear infections may cause severe damage to a vital taste-sensing nerve. According to figures from the Federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), more than 7.2 million children under age 18 are treated each year for ear infections. At least 9,000 are hospitalized for otitis media (medical term for ear infection) each year.

Additional results from research at the University of Florida College of Dentistry in Gainesville show that those with a serious history of childhood ear infections seem to be about 70 percent more likely to be obese than those with no history of infections. The unfortunate part is that many of these ‘patients’ suffering from a damaged ‘chorda tympani nerve’ (which runs through the tongue, along the side of the face and behind the eardrum on its way to the brain) do not even know why they cannot stop eating sweet and fatty foods.

The most recent study has been conducted by Linda Bartoshuk, a scientist with the McKnight Brain Institute’s Center for Taste and Smell, in the University of Florida’s College of Dentistry. She along with her researchers tested more than ‘6,500 people who were asked to record basic information about age, sex, height and weight as well as the intensity of their preferences for 26 different sweet, salty and high-fat foods.’ Other questions entailed whether or not they had had many ear infections as children, and if so, had they required serious treatment such as antibiotics or tubes.

Additionally, an article from MSNBC stated that “an analysis of health records of nearly 14,000 children in the early- to mid-1960s showed that those who had tonsillectomies, a once-common treatment for ear infections, were at greater risk of being overweight. Children ages 6 to 11 who had their tonsils out were about 40 percent more likely to be overweight, while teen girls were about 30 percent more likely to be heavy.” (taken from the director of the epidemiology and biostatistics program for the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders).

In conclusion, the link is interesting in that “about 17 percent of those with moderate to severe ear infections were obese, compared to about only 10 percent of those with no infection history, a 70 percent increase. An additional 35 percent of those with histories of infection were overweight, compared to about 31 percent of those without infections, a nearly 13 percent jump.”

Yet this should not be seen as the ‘easy way out’, simply because you experienced ear infections or damage as a child, does not mean that you will, without a doubt be heavyset or obese in your future. Instead, this information is useful to parents whose children have ear infections in order to monitor their sweet and fat intake and to provide a good example of a balance between healthy eating and exercising. Reporter

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