11 November 2009

Hormones on Diet

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European researchers recently identified six new loci associated with body mass index, highlighting a very interesting neuronal influence on body weight regulation

It is a damning neologism of our age, a new word combining the threat of two major health problems of epidemic-like proportions. In Europe alone, around 33 million adults are expected to be suffering from type-2 diabetes by 2010. Obesity, which is a major recognized risk factor, is increasing rapidly in association with it, and it’s not a coincidence. The combined complications, which are now called diabesity, can be deadly.

The toll is big enough already. The current cost of type-2 diabetes in the EU tops 15 billion euros per year, amounting to around 8% of the healthcare expense. The thing is, for most patients neither dieting nor available therapies are very effective in achieving long-term weight reduction. The EU Diabesity research project opted to focus on modulating the ways in which the brain controls metabolism and body weight.

The problem is, centrally obese people are more likely to develop insulin resistance, and the worldwide rise of type-2 diabetes cases does correspond to the dramatic global increase of obesity. Out of the Diabesity consortium, including 27 partners from 10 European countries studying the physiology of adipose systems regulation among many other things, an important contribution also came out to the work of an international team of scientists who identified a gene locus that could lead to the development of new drugs to fight cardiovascular disease.

In this instance, scientists from the UK, Finland, USA, Switzerland, Australia and Canada analyzed genetic data from nearly 12,000 participants across five surveys in a genome-wide association study. They were able to pinpoint an association between low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL) and a specific chromosome region, a locus that had not been previously linked to lipid metabolism. Two of the scientists received financial support as part of the EU Diabesity project.

The results provide potential insight into the biological mechanisms underlying the regulation of LDL cholesterol and might help discovering novel therapeutic targets for cardiovascular disease, which are the main cause of death in the EU, accounting for over 1,9 million deaths every year.

Within the Diabesity study, six new loci associated with body mass index were identified, highlighting a very interesting neuronal influence on body weight regulation.

Another social aspect of diabesity causing particular concern is its increase among children. A specific pediatric study within the project focused on a lifestyle intervention on overweight children with variations in the melanocortin 4 receptor gene. Out of the comparison of weight changes after a program of exercise, behaviour and nutrition therapy, the researchers concluded that children with such a mutation were able to lose weight but had much greater difficulties in maintaining this achievement. This result supports the theory that such a MC4R mutation has an impact on weight status.

 

 

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