August 15, 2008

Ear Infections Linked to Increased Obesity

U.S. researchers suggest chronic ear infections could be linked to people's preference for fatty foods, which increases their risk of being overweight.

Linda Bartoshuk of the University of Florida College of Dentistry said preliminary findings from a series of studies showed that a strong link was found between localized taste damage as a result of chronic middle ear infections, or otitis media, and an increased preference for high-fat foods.

In one study, 6,584 people ages 16 to 92 responded to a series of health questions that determined their history of middle ear infections and their body mass index. The findings showed that those with a moderate to severe history of otitis media were 62 percent more likely to be obese.

John Hayes of Brown University and his collaborators at the University of Connecticut found associations between otitis media exposure, taste, food choice and obesity.

Epidemiologist Kathleen Daly of the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities said findings showed ear infections treated with tubes can also lead to higher body mass indexes in toddlers.

Another study found teen girls who had had their tonsils removed -- a treatment for ear infections -- were 30 percent more likely to be overweight.

The findings were presented at the American Psychological Association's 116th Annual Convention in Boston.