Although it sounds preposterous, a doctor in America has delivered new research stating that a common cold virus can make us fat.
Dr Nikhil Dhurandhar has researched his theory for the last ten years and claims that the virus interferes with our normal body processes, leading to obesity.
The Adenovirus-36, spread by dirty hands, attacks tissue and causes fat cells to multiply, prompting the pounds pile-on.
Dr Dhurandhar researched 1,000 obese patients and concluded from blood samples that 20% of those analysed had encountered the virus at some point.
A separate study by Dr Dhurandhar’s research team revealed that obese people were almost three times more likely to carry the virus than someone of average weight.
Dr Dhurandhar explained: ‘When this virus goes to the fat tissue it replicates making more copies of itself and in the process increases the number of fat cells, which may explain why people get fat when infected with this virus.’
He went on to explain that most of us have come into contact with the virus as children and only remain infective for two to three months.
Dr Carel Le Roux, an obesity expert at Imperial College, who has been researching to see if he can make thin people fat, said: ‘It's very important to know that it's not the reason why we're seeing a major epidemic of obesity.
‘It may be a small contributing factor and we need to explore all the avenues because so many people need help and we're just not clever enough to help them at the moment.’
But Dr Tam Fry, chair of the Child Growth Foundation, said: ‘I'm sceptical because this theory has been around for 10 years and no-one has come up with a comparable study to back this up.
‘Concern over the obesity epidemic seems to be throwing up a whole load of off-the-wall ideas but the message remains the same, that sensible eating and exercise are the major components to get your weight under control.’
According to World Health Organisation figures, there are currently over a billion overweight adults worldwide and a third of them are obese.