Human Body Slices

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.

Click here for the abstract of Tukiainen’s presentation and here for more from Science Daily. For more on the mechanisms that link obesity, systemic inflammation, and metabolic disease, click here.

Human Body Slices, photograph © / flickr

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May 30, 2016

2 Responses to “New Understanding of Obesity as a Systemic Disease”

  1. May 30, 2016 at 8:22 am, Al Lewis said:

    It’s like there are parallel universes. While real researchers are trying to improve our scientific understanding of the biochemistry and physiology of obesity, a gang of idiots who call themselves wellness vendors are holding crash-dieting competitions in corporations (big corporations, like Schlumberger) by paying employees to lose weight, at least until the contest ends. Somehow they get human resources departments to go along with this.

    And yet I am not aware of any other medical condition that anyone thinks can be cured by paying patients.

    Here is the story of one such vendor:

    • May 30, 2016 at 10:46 am, Ted said:

      So true, Al. Thanks!