Childhood ear infections may predispose to obesity later in life

Aug 20, 2008

Researchers are reporting new evidence of a possible link between a history of moderate to severe middle ear infections in childhood and a tendency to be overweight later in life. Their study suggests that prompt diagnosis and treatment of middle ear infections — one of the most common childhood conditions requiring medical attention — may help fight obesity in some people. The findings were presented today at the 236th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS).

Study leader Linda M. Bartoshuk, Ph.D., noted that chronic, repeated ear infections can damage the chorda tympani nerve, which passes through the middle ear and controls taste sensations. Damage to this nerve appears to intensify the desire for fatty or high-energy foods, which could result in obesity, she said.

Other research has shown that middle ear infections, or otitis media, are becoming more common in children. Childhood obesity is likewise on the rise and has reached epidemic levels, particularly in the United States. Although scientists have known for years that ear infections can lead to hearing loss in children that can result in speech and language impairment, a possible link between ear infections and obesity has been largely unexplored until now, said Bartoshuk, who is with the University of Florida's Center for Smell and Taste in Gainesville.

In the new study, scientists reviewed data collected from 245 patients (age 30 and older) with a history of middle ear infections and 1,055 patients with no such history. The study included questions about the patients' dietary preferences among a set of 26 common foods and beverages ranging from low-fat to fatty foods. The researchers found that those with a history of ear infections were more likely to report a higher, more intense preference for fatty foods than others and were twice as likely to be obese.

"The more energy dense a food is, the more a person with ear infections likes it. You can see what that would do to weight gain," says Bartoshuk. "This finding gives a new environmental component to the obesity problem that allows a possibility of intervention."

Bartoshuk emphasizes, however, that the findings are preliminary, with much to be learned about the percentage of children with ear infections who are vulnerable to obesity, how much nerve damage must occur before obesity begins, and how frequently the damage must occur, she says. The possible link between nerve damage in the ear, taste preference, and obesity is a complex problem that is just beginning to be explored, says Bartoshuk, a renowned expert on the study of taste.

"We need to study larger numbers of people and do taste-testing on them to find out more about this possible connection," she says, adding that the research is underway.

Source: American Chemical Society

Explore further: Ebola drugs: A factfile

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Body by smartphone

Jul 30, 2014

We love our smartphones. Since they marched out of the corporate world and into the hands of consumers about 10 years ago, we've relied more and more on our iPhone and Android devices to organize our schedules, ...

Chronic ear infections linked to increased obesity risk

Aug 14, 2008

Ear infections are a painful rite of passage for many children. New research suggests the damage caused by chronic ear infections could be linked to people's preference for fatty foods, which increases their risk of being ...

Study: Breast-feeding would save lives, money

Apr 05, 2010

(AP) -- The lives of nearly 900 babies would be saved each year, along with billions of dollars, if 90 percent of U.S. women breast-fed their babies for the first six months of life, a cost analysis says.

The Medical Minute: Cancer prevention

Feb 18, 2009

People often ask their physicians what they can do to prevent cancers. Various supplements and unorthodox treatments to clean out the system and purge toxins are promoted by convincing arguments as a way to improve health ...

Recommended for you

Ebola drugs: A factfile

36 minutes ago

There is no licensed treatment or vaccine for Ebola, which has killed more than 3,300 people in West Africa since the start of 2014.

MRSA biofilms in joint fluid make infections tough to tackle

57 minutes ago

Physicians have long speculated at the hard-to-treat nature of joint infection. In an article published in Journal of Infectious Diseases, Thomas Jefferson University scientists, in collaboration with scientists at the Na ...

Officials ask about 80 to watch for Ebola symptoms

2 hours ago

Health officials in Texas have reached out to about 80 people who may have had direct or indirect contact with the man infected with Ebola or someone close to him, a Dallas County Health and Human Services ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

zilqarneyn
not rated yet Jun 24, 2009
Fatty food, especially the not-so-optimally-cooking (lost vitamins, ill additives) food (worse, with the fast-swallowing style), is thought to worsen people's wellness.



Now, this study is suggesting the vice versa path, too. So, is that truly chicken from egg, or vice versa? Or both? The question list must have the question category to know how their food pattern was, before infection was initially seen. Because most would guess that, consuming lots of fatty food might have the negative-wellness tag. (Less fruit or vegetables, and probably that "fatty" is not a well-thought, well-felt mix of natural oils, but industrial, single type, not so helpful fat type.)









BTW, I subscribe to the point that, children & ill people might have high taste for what is good for their wellness -- so far as they would not fall to the trap of glossy-packages or advertisement (or, gobbling up a lot, speedily).

http://www.zilqar...tite.htm