Researchers Study Ways to Combat Obesity

April 20, 2016

Researchers at ENDO 2016 presented studies focused on fighting the worldwide obesity epidemic, including risk identification and cold exposure.

One-third of American adults are obese. In 2010, the cost of obesity and obesity-related comorbidities in the United States was estimated to be $315.8 billion. In an effort to fight this worldwide epidemic, researchers have focused their efforts on preventing or treating obesity. They presented their findings at the Endocrine Society’s 98th Annual Meeting & Expo (ENDO 2016).

Identifying Children at Risk for Obesity

Given that young children with severe obesity have a high lifetime risk for persistent obesity and metabolic disease, Allison Smego and her colleagues at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center and the University of Colorado School of Medicine set out to characterize growth patterns of children who became severely obese (BMI>99%ile) by age six. They concluded that BMI trajectories in children who became severely obese by age six differed from children who maintained normal weight as early as six months old, approximately 12 to 18 months prior to the median onset of clinical obesity. In light of the study’s findings, Smego said it’s important for pediatricians to screen infants using the WHO BMI growth chart, since a BMI above the 85th percentile in infancy can identify children at risk.

The Importance of Weight-Loss Strategies

Identifying patterns of weight change is critical for tailoring weight management strategies. Given this, Joanna Huang of Novo Nordisk Inc., Plainsboro, NJ, and colleagues set out to understand patterns of weight change in obese patients. Their study concluded that regardless of how much weight participants lost during the first six months, after two years the majority of patients become “cyclers”-they did not continually lose, gain, or maintain weight. They also found that patients who lost more weight during a weight loss period were more likely to keep the weight off and keep losing weight. “Successful and sustained clinically meaningful weight loss thus requires chronic and effective weight management strategies,” Huang said. This includes diet, physical activities, behavior modification, pharmacotherapy, and surgeries.

The Impact of Cold Temperatures on Obesity

Adaptive thermogenesis induced by cold exposure may be useful in preventing obesity. This hypothesis is partly explained by cold-induced activation of brown-adipose-tissue. In contrast, some experimental studies have shown that cold exposure increases appetite and total energy intake. But it is unclear whether cold exposure in real-life situations is associated with abdominal obesity. Keigo Saeki, of Nara Medical University School of Medicine in Japan, and colleagues set out to investigate the association between indoor cold exposure and obesity among elderly individuals. The team measured each participant’s home indoor temperature during a 48-hour period as well as their abdominal circumference during winter. They found a significant association between higher indoor temperature and higher abdominal circumference.

Dietary Effects of Fatty Acid Composition

Caroline Blomquist, of UmeÃ¥ University in Sweden, and colleagues studied the effects of two diets on fatty acid (FA) composition. Obese postmenopausal women were either put on a Paleolithic-type diet (PD) or a low-fat diet (LFD) for 24 months. The biomarkers for FA intake confirmed an increased intake of polyunsaturated fatty acids (fish) and decreased intake of saturated fatty acids (dairy products) at six months in the PD group, despite similar weight loss. The PD reduced specific FAs associated with insulin resistance more distinctly than a LFD. Given this, “the Paleolithic-type diet may have long-term beneficial effects on obesity-related disorders,” Blomquist said.

From material presented at The Endocrine Society Annual Meeting 2016, Boston, MA.

OR07-5 BMI Trajectory of Severely Obese Children Diverges from Normal-Weight Children during Infancy.

OR07-2 Patterns of Weight Loss, Maintenance, and Gain in Patients with Obesity.

Obesity and Indoor Cold Exposure: A Cross-Sectional Analysis of Population-Based Study (The HEIJO-KYO Cohort).

Beneficial Effects on Fatty Acid Composition and Indices of Fatty Acid Desaturase Activity with a Paleolithic-Type Diet during a Two-Year Intervention in Obese Postmenopausal Women.