By Ian Lyness
Insulite Laboratories’ Weekly Health Support Message
Adults who struggle with a liking for fattening food could have something other than will power to blame. New research suggests that frequent childhood ear infections may be linked to weight gain or obesity later in life.
A study says the infections may damage a vital taste-sensing nerve in kids, resulting in a preference for rich foods and making children prone to weight gain as adults.
People with a serious history of childhood ear infections appear to be about 70% more likely to be obese than those with no history of the condition, according to preliminary research at the University of Florida College of Dentistry in Gainesville.
Those who suffer harm to the crucial chorda tympani nerve — which runs through the tongue, along the side of the face and behind the eardrum on its way to the brain — may not realize why they can’t stay away from fatty foods that pack on the pounds.
Scientists long have known that damage to the chorda tympani nerve makes people prefer sweet, salty and high-fat foods such as butter, bacon, salted pretzels, ice cream and Oreo cookies. When the chorda tympani nerve doesn’t work, two other nerves take over. But people with this condition are drawn to more intense flavors and textures, says study leader Dr. Linda Bartoshuk.
Her research team discovered the apparent link between bouts of ear infections — known as otitis media — and obesity after analyzing voluntary surveys submitted by more than 6,500 people who revealed their history of ear problems, or lack of, dating back to childhood in the 1960s.
“We found that, without question, those with otitis media weighed more — and in many cases a great deal more — than those without,” said Dr. Bartoshuk. “If other people experienced the same allure of food, they’d be heavy, too.”
A balanced, nutritious diet combined with regular exercise can help reverse an underlying cause of excess weight and obesity, namely the imbalance of blood glucose and insulin called Insulin Resistance, which decreases insulin sensitivity. By reversing Insulin Resistance, it is possible to facilitate weight loss.
If left unchecked, obesity can also lead to the cluster of increased risks for heart disease called Metabolic Syndrome (Syndrome X) as well as Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) – a leading cause of menstrual irregularity and infertility, acne and other skin conditions, excess facial hair and female hair loss. Overweight women do not have a monopoly of this disorder, however. Up to 50% of PCOS sufferers may be females who are of normal weight or even lean.
Overweight men are at greater risk of prostate cancer. Insulin Resistance-linked weight problems are also associated in both sexes with Type 2 Diabetes. Before the onset of this latter condition, however, most people develop reversible Pre-Diabetes, a condition in which blood sugar levels are elevated beyond normal but not high enough for a diagnosis of Type 2 Diabetes.
If ignored, Pre-Diabetes may lead to the Type 2 variety, which can only be managed for the rest of a person’s life in the vast majority of cases. Many Diabetics require daily injections of insulin.
Type 2 Diabetes severely increases the risk of blindness, amputation and kidney disease, as well as a heart attack or stroke. Some 90% of people with Type 2 also suffer from excess weight or obesity.