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Obesity may not always be associated with negative metabolic changes, study

Posted:  Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Obesity is a condition usually associated with metabolic profile changes predisposing one to diabetes, heart disease and stroke. However, not every obese individual could display these negative metabolic changes, says a new study.

Published in The Journal of Clinical Investigation, the study recruited 20 obese participants who were asked to gain 15 pounds (6.8 kg) in weight over several months. In order to gain weight, the participants ate fast foods from restaurants selected by the researchers based on their accurate reporting of nutritional information and consistent portion sizes. This activity was supervised by a registered dietician.

The researchers then evaluated the effect of weight gain on the participants’ metabolism. They even measured their ability to regulate blood sugar and liver fat as well as their body compositions, and insulin sensitivities before and after gaining weight.

The researchers found that when the metabolic profiles of the obese participants were in the normal range at baseline, then they remained normal even after the weight gain. In contrast, those reporting abnormal profiles showed significant worsening associated with weight gain.

According to the researchers, people with abnormal metabolism tended to accumulate fat inside the liver, a trait absent in people with normal metabolism. Also, those with normal metabolism expressed more genes that regulate the production and accumulation of fat. This gene activity seemed to increase when metabolically normal individuals gained weight, possibly conferring protection against metabolic problems.

“This research demonstrates that some obese people are protected from the adverse metabolic effects of moderate weight gain, whereas others are predisposed to develop these problems. This observation is important clinically because about 25% of obese people do not have metabolic complications. Our data shows that these people remain metabolically normal even after they gain additional weight,” concluded the researchers.

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