New Understanding of Obesity as a Systemic Disease
While many people are still stuck on BMI and body size, basic research is building a deeper understanding of obesity as a systemic disease. At the European Society of Human Genetics last week, Taru Tukiainen presented another piece of the puzzle derived from the Genotype-Tissue Expression Project. Tukiainen and colleagues studied the relationship between BMI and gene expression in 44 different tissue types. They found changes that correlated with BMI in almost all of the tissues they studied:
These results show that obesity really is a systemic condition, and particularly a condition of systemic inflammation. Interestingly, though, the changes in tissue function appeared to be only partially shared between different types of tissues; some tissues clearly act in pairs with one half of the pair compensating for — or enhancing — the dysfunction of the other. For instance, adipose tissue and adrenal glands, which are both organs secreting hormones essential to metabolism, often react to changes in BMI in completely opposite ways, including a decrease in metabolic activity in the former and an increase in the latter.
The growing understanding of obesity as a systemic disease is providing targets for more effectively treating the disease. The fruits of this research cannot come quickly enough.
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May 30, 2016