Scientists say there are two types of obesity, and one is worse for our health: ScienceAlert

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A new study divides obesity into two distinct subtypes, each with their own effects on how our bodies function. Not only could this discovery inform a more nuanced approach to diagnosing weight-related health issues, but it could also lead to more personalized ways to treat them.

Currently, obesity is diagnosed using body mass index (BMI) measurements, but the team behind the new research say this approach is too simplistic and risks misleading. to be deceptive in ignoring individual biological variations.

One of the newly identified types of obesity is characterized by greater fat mass, the other by fat and lean muscle mass. To their surprise, the researchers found that the second type was associated with increased inflammation, which has been linked to an increased risk of cancer and other diseases.

“Using a purely data-driven approach, we see for the first time that there are at least two different metabolic subtypes of obesity, each with their own physiological and molecular characteristics that influence health,” says J. Andrew Pospisilik, an epigenetics researcher studying metabolic diseases at the Van Andel Institute in Michigan.

“Translating these results into a clinically usable test could help physicians provide more accurate patient care.”

Scientists tapped into data from 153 sets of twins collected by the TwinsUK research project, coming up with four metabolic subtypes that influence body mass: two prone to leanness and two prone to obesity.

These results were then verified in laboratory mouse models, using genetically identical mice that grew up in the same environment and ate the same amount of food.

These checks suggest that there is something else going on beyond this diet, this environment and this legacy. One likely explanation involves epigenetic markers – non-coding changes made to DNA molecules that alter the way genes are read. Epigenetics is the reason why twins with the same DNA code are not always identical.

“Our findings in the lab almost carbon-copied the data from human twins,” says Pospisilik.

“We again saw two distinct subtypes of obesity, one of which appeared to be epigenetically triggerable, and was marked by higher lean body mass and more fat, elevated inflammatory signals, elevated insulin levels and strong epigenetic signature.”

From what researchers can tell so far, the second type of obesity — that related to inflammation — appears to be triggered by chance. This means that these findings could also be useful in the study of what is called unexplained phenotypic variation (UPV), the idea that other factors beyond genetics and our environment make us what we are. that we are.

Scientists have been thinking about UPV for over a hundred years, and this study suggests that epigenetics is linked to UPV.

“Today’s findings underscore the power of recognizing these subtle differences between people to guide more specific ways to treat disease,” says Pospisilik..

If two (or more) types of obesity can be confirmed in future human validation studies, it follows that various treatments for obesity – changes in diet, for example, or weight-loss surgeries weight – could have different effects depending on the type of obesity. A whole new field of research has just opened up.

The researchers now want to study the two types of obesity they identified in more detail, which could lead to guidelines doctors could use to diagnose them differently.

“Nearly two billion people worldwide are considered overweight and there are over 600 million people who are obese, but we have no framework to stratify individuals according to their more precise etiologies,” Pospisilik says.

The research has been published in Natural metabolism.

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