Scientists find different types of obesity and confirm that a high BMI is not always a sign of health risks

Photo credit: RyanJLane - Getty Images

Photo credit: RyanJLane – Getty Images

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  • According to a new study published in Nature Metabolismobesity isn’t just a matter of weight in relation to height or body mass index (BMI) – there are actually at least four metabolic body types.

  • The study also found that those who fit into the BMI category of overweight or obese are not predisposed to develop diseases previously thought to be directly related to weight.

For decades, one calculation, the body mass index (BMI) has been used to determine whether someone is overweight or obese. BMI compares weight in relation to height and when that number is high, doctors are likely to tell patients that they are at risk for health problems and therefore need to lose weight.

However, it turns out that this comparison is not a reliable marker of health outcomes. Some people who fit into the “obese” category according to BMI may never be diagnosed with any disease, while others in the “normal” BMI range may be genetically predisposed to heart disease and other diseases, regardless of their weight.

“It has long been clear to us that there are at least three types of people when it comes to obesity: those who are healthy and obese, those who are obese and have co-morbidities, such as diabetes or heart disease, and those who are obese and on the go. to develop co-morbidities,” said Andrew Pospisilik, Ph.D., chair of the Division of Epigenetics and a founding member of the Metabolic and Nutritional Programming Group at the Van Andel Institute in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Bicycles. “We wanted to see if we could identify the genetic variations in these different ‘types’ of obesity.”

To investigate the types of obesity, Pospisilik and his team studied twins and the ways their weight varied over the years. They then tried to mimic their findings in mice.

“Using a purely data-driven approach, we saw 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,” Pospisilik said. “Our findings in the lab almost copied the data from the human twins. We again saw two different subtypes of obesity.”

Until now, scientists placed people in one of three metabolic types: endomorph (stores fat easily), mesomorph (gains muscle easily), and ectomorph (thin, struggles to gain fat or muscle). However, the recent findings were published this month in Nature Metabolismdivides people into four metabolic subtypes (two prone to leanness and two prone to obesity) that may one day help doctors provide more accurate care to patients and provide more precise ways to diagnose and treat obesity and associated metabolic disorders, explained Pospisilik out.

The team also found that of the two metabolic subtypes prone to obesity, one was associated with increased inflammation, which may increase the risk of certain cancers and other diseases, while the other was not. It also found that some genes responded to certain triggers — such as lifestyle choices or specific foods — leading to weight gain and susceptibility to disease, while others did not.

The science of studying how genes are influenced by behavior and environment is called epigenetics. For example, Pospisilik, an epigeneticist, doesn’t study which foods or lifestyle choices can change a person’s weight, but instead looks for genetic predispositions that coordinate with weight and how that can lead to disease.

Unlike genetic changes, epigenetic changes are reversible and do not alter the DNA sequence. “I like to tell people that all bees are born with the same DNA, but some bees become worker bees and others become queen bees. Ultimately, all queen bees are genetically similar to other queen bees. How does that happen? Epigenetics are the processes that can guide the same bee DNA to develop into a queen or a worker, but nothing in between,” Pospisilak said.

Pospisilak and his team found that the same idea applies to people and their weight and health. While one person is more prone to building muscle, another may be more prone to weight gain, and their diets can be very similar.

“Between twin studies and mouse studies, we can really show how each individual has different genetically preprogrammed pathways available, with lifelong consequences,” Pospisilak explains.

Ultimately, the new research confirms that health and fitness are more than just a number on a scale or on a BMI chart.

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