Obesity Could be caused by Ear Infections or Tonsils
According to scientists, a history of severe ear infections during childhood or tonsils may increase the chances of obesity later in life. An altered sense of taste which leads to a preference for rich fatty foods is said to be increase the risk of being overweight.
Five separate studies reviewed at the American Psychological Association's 116th Annual Convention in Boston indicated a link between ear infection, tonsil removal surgery and obesity.
Dr. John Hayes, from Brown University in Rhode Island said, "This suggests that taste damage from ear infections may alter food choice and thus lead to obesity risk."
Tonsil removal though not common now was routine in the 1960â€™s and 1970â€™s as doctors felt it helped relieve repeated ear infections in children. A review of the data of a study conducted in the 1960â€™s on children between the ages of 6-17 found that the children who had tonsillectomies were 40% more likely to be overweight.
"This data suggests that there are lingering effects of tonsillectomies on taste nerves that can affect eating habits," said Epidemiologist Howard Hoffman from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders in the US.
Dr Kathleen Daly, from the University of Minnesota Twin-Cities, told that her research indicated that babies treated with grommets for recurrent ear infections were likely to have a higher body mass index (BMI). "Obesity has doubled over the past 20 years among pre-school children. The more data we collect on what contributes to this major public health problem, the greater likelihood that we can help prevent it,â€ť she said.
Another study that was conducted on 6,584 people between the ages of 16-92 found a history of moderate to severe ear infection increased obesity chances by 62 %. While a separate study found middle aged women who had larger waists to have damaged taste nerves to prefer high fat and sweet foods.
Pediatric ear, nose and throat surgeon Ray Clarke, from Alder Hey Children's Hospital in Liverpool, said the fact that severe ear infections, and operations, could affect taste was well known but there was no other evidence to support this. "There may well be some other common factor in obesity. In terms of tonsillectomies, these are frequently given to children with breathing problems such as sleep apnea, which is certainly linked to being overweight in adults, and may be linked to weight in children," he said.
Tam Fry, from the National Obesity Forum, said, "The potential link as reported leaves us somewhat agog. It is possible for there to be a link between otitis externa - a different form of ear infection - and obesity, because of the connection between obesity and type II diabetes, which can contribute to this condition."
Professor Mark Haggard, from the charity Deafness Research UK, said "A connection is not impossible, but to be frank, is extremely unlikely."