Those who live with obesity do not simply carry too much weight around with them, but also many secondary diseases. “Obesity is a disease and not a patient failure,” notes Professor Dr. Antje Körner from the Obesity Research Center in Leipzig in an interview with MDR knowledge clear. There are genes that make their carriers particularly susceptible to obesity. The research center for obesity diseases in Leipzig is looking for exactly such genes. But, the search is like looking for a needle in a haystack.
What Is The Research About Obesity?
In 2007 researchers made a breakthrough. They discovered the gene variant FTO, overrepresented in people with obesity. The FTO (fat mass and obesity-associated) gene ensures specific fat cells only store fat instead of burning it, which is their job. The result is cells gets more prominent, so the fatty tissue gets more significant, and the subject or patient will get obese.
Fat Cells – The Body’s Energy Stores
However, if they are active, these gene variants are only responsible for one to two kilos of body weight. For people with 150 kilos, these are only marginally important. But the FTO gene variant is not the only one that the researchers have since found in a haystack. In the past few years, researchers have found more than 100 genes. Studies with more than a million subjects have shown that there could be more than 700 gene variants responsible for obesity.
Epidemiology Of Obesity
If we are at the mercy of the many little unknowns in the genes, is the fight against obesity hopeless? No! We can even break the gene circle. Epigenetics research assumes that these characteristics are inherited genetically and various influences can activate or deactivate genes. Peter Kovac sees epigenetics as the key to the success of future obesity therapies. “We can turn many genes on or off later once we understand how they are regulated, by the environment, depending on what we need for our body weight”.
Baby fat is not necessarily harmless because environmental factors, lifestyle, diet, and exercise influence our genes. Plus individuals can act on these factors as early as possible, before full-blown obesity develops with all its consequences such as:
- Cardiovascular diseases
- Heart attacks
Why Is Research Into Obesity Important?
High blood pressure in childhood can also indicate later clinical problems. It is crucial to analyze these preliminary stages, says Prof. Dr. Antje Körner, because the chances of obesity are 50 percent for an overweight infant and 90 percent for an obese five or six-year-old.
Why Is Losing Weight So Hard?
The fight against the excess pounds is difficult. Simply due to an ancient mechanism in our body that tries to defend its weight. Fatty tissue serves as a store of energy for us, so “weight defense” is an ancient human strategy that has ensured survival in times of famine. The fact that in Western industrialized nations, we usually just have to reach into the fridge or pantry as soon as we are hungry has not yet been saved in our genes.
Losing weight can be challenging for several reasons, varying from person to person. Here are some common factors that contribute to the difficulty of losing weight:
- Complex Biological Factors: Our bodies are intricate systems with various biological processes that regulate weight. Hormonal imbalances, genetics, metabolic rate, and the body’s natural tendency to defend against weight loss can make it challenging to shed excess pounds.
- Caloric Imbalance: Weight loss fundamentally relies on creating a caloric deficit, where energy expenditure exceeds energy intake. However, accurately estimating caloric intake and expenditure can take time and effort. Factors such as portion sizes, food choices, metabolism variations, and inaccuracies in tracking methods can make it hard to achieve a consistent and effective caloric deficit.
- Emotional and Psychological Factors: Emotional eating, stress, boredom, and other psychological factors can significantly impact weight loss efforts. Food often provides comfort and emotional satisfaction, and breaking unhealthy eating habits or addressing underlying emotional issues can be a complex and ongoing process.
- Unrealistic Expectations and Fad Diets: Unrealistic weight loss expectations and the prevalence of fad diets can hinder long-term success. Many people seek quick fixes or follow restrictive diets that are not sustainable or nutritionally balanced. Sustainable weight loss requires a holistic approach focusing on lifestyle changes, including healthy eating patterns, regular physical activity, and improved overall well-being.
- Environmental and Societal Factors: Our modern environment can challenge weight loss. Highly processed foods, food marketing, sedentary lifestyles, limited access to nutritious options, and cultural norms surrounding food can all influence our choices and make it harder to maintain a healthy weight.
It’s important to approach weight loss with patience, realistic expectations, and a focus on overall health rather than solely on the number on the scale.
What Is The New Research About Obesity?
The latest general areas of ongoing research and advancements in the field of obesity research up until that time.
- Genetic Factors: Scientists continue exploring the genetic factors contributing to obesity. The research aims to identify specific genes and variations that may increase the risk of obesity and how these genes interact with environmental factors.
- Gut Microbiome: The role of the gut microbiome in obesity is an active area of investigation. Studies are examining the relationship between the composition of gut bacteria and the development and management of obesity to identify potential therapeutic interventions.
- Hormonal Regulation: Research focuses on understanding the hormonal regulation of appetite and energy balance. Hormones such as leptin, ghrelin, and insulin are being studied to gain insights into their influence on obesity development and their potential as targets for obesity treatment.
- Neurological Factors: The brain is critical in regulating appetite, food intake, and energy expenditure. Ongoing research aims to unravel the neurological mechanisms of obesity, including the reward system, neural pathways, and cognitive processes related to eating behavior.
- Behavioral and Lifestyle Interventions: Studies investigate various interventions to prevent and manage obesity. This includes examining the effectiveness of dietary strategies, physical activity interventions, behavioral therapies, and the impact of socioeconomic factors on obesity rates.
It’s important to note that scientific research on obesity is extensive and continuously evolving.
Obesity research is of significant importance due to several reasons:
Obesity is a complex and chronic medical condition with severe health implications. It is associated with an increased risk of numerous chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, certain types of cancer, respiratory issues, and musculoskeletal disorders. By understanding the underlying causes, mechanisms, and consequences of obesity, research can help identify effective prevention strategies, develop targeted interventions, and improve overall health outcomes.
Rising Global Prevalence
Obesity rates have steadily increased worldwide, reaching epidemic proportions. It presents a significant public health challenge that demands urgent attention. Research can provide valuable insights into the factors contributing to the obesity epidemic, such as lifestyle changes, socioeconomic influences, cultural aspects, and environmental factors. By studying these factors, researchers can propose evidence-based interventions and policies to combat the obesity crisis.
Personal and Societal Impact
Obesity affects an individual’s physical health and profoundly impacts mental well-being, quality of life, and social interactions. It can lead to stigmatization, discrimination, and reduced self-esteem. Understanding the psychosocial aspects of obesity through research helps develop interventions that address individuals’ holistic well-being, promoting inclusivity and reducing weight-based biases in society.
Obesity poses a significant financial burden on healthcare systems and societies. The costs associated with obesity-related healthcare, including treating obesity-related conditions and their complications, are substantial. By investing in research, we can gain insights into cost-effective prevention strategies, innovative treatment modalities, and policy interventions that can help alleviate the economic impact of obesity.
Intervention and Prevention Strategies
Research plays a pivotal role in identifying effective strategies for obesity prevention and treatment. It helps evaluate the efficacy of various interventions, such as dietary approaches, physical activity programs, behavioral therapies, pharmacological treatments, and surgical options.
Additionally, research can inform policymakers and public health experts about the most effective approaches to create supportive environments that promote healthy lifestyles and make healthier choices more accessible.
What Is A Good Research Question About Obesity?
A good research question about obesity should be specific, focused, and address an area that requires further investigation. Here’s an example of a research question about obesity:
“What are the long-term effects of childhood obesity on cardiovascular health and metabolic outcomes in adulthood?”
This research question explores the long-term consequences of childhood obesity on cardiovascular health and metabolic outcomes during adulthood. It could involve studying a cohort of individuals who were obese as children and examining their cardiovascular health markers, such as blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and incidence of heart disease, about their weight status in adulthood. This research question seeks to provide insights into the potential long-term impact of childhood obesity and inform interventions and prevention strategies to mitigate adverse health outcomes.
What Do Scientists Say About Obesity?
Scientists acknowledge obesity as a complex and multifactorial condition with significant implications for health and well-being. Here are some key points that scientists emphasize about obesity:
Scientists recognize that obesity arises from genetic, environmental, behavioral, and socio-cultural factors. It is not solely a result of personal choices or willpower. But obesity is influenced by complex interactions between biological, environmental, and social determinants.
Obesity is associated with a higher risk of health conditions, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, certain types of cancer, respiratory issues, musculoskeletal disorders, and mental health disorders. Scientists emphasize the importance of understanding the mechanisms underlying these associations to develop effective prevention and treatment strategies.
Obesity often results from an energy imbalance, where caloric intake exceeds energy expenditure over a prolonged period. Scientists emphasize the significance of addressing both sides of the energy balance equation—reducing excessive caloric intake through healthier dietary patterns and promoting regular physical activity to enhance energy expenditure.
Scientists recognize that individuals may respond differently to obesogenic environments due to genetic variations, metabolic differences, and other factors. This variability underscores the importance of personalized approaches to obesity prevention and treatment.
Scientists advocate for a comprehensive approach to obesity, addressing not only individual behaviors but also the broader social, economic, and environmental determinants that influence weight status. It includes creating supportive environments that promote healthy lifestyles, improving access to nutritious foods, encouraging physical activity, and addressing social inequalities that contribute to disparities in obesity prevalence.
Long-term Sustainable Changes
Scientists emphasize the need for long-term sustainable changes in lifestyle behaviors rather than short-term or fad diets. They advocate for promoting healthy eating patterns, regular physical activity, and fostering a supportive environment that facilitates behavior change.
Scientists recognize that addressing the obesity epidemic requires collaboration across multiple disciplines, including nutrition, exercise science, psychology, public health, genetics, and policy-making. Integrating knowledge and expertise from diverse fields is crucial for developing effective strategies to prevent and manage obesity.
It’s important to note that scientific perspectives on obesity may evolve as new research emerges, and there may be differing opinions or ongoing debates on specific aspects of obesity. Therefore, staying up-to-date with the latest scientific literature and consensus statements from reputable scientific organizations can provide a more comprehensive understanding of the scientific perspectives on obesity.