Modest Weight Loss Can Diminish Metabolic Side Effects of Obesity Interview with:
Peter Würtz, PhD, Docent
Head of Molecular Epidemiology, Computational Medicine,
Institute of Health Sciences, University of Oulu, Finland

Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Dr. Würtz: Obesity is linked with unfavorable cholesterol and blood sugar levels, but the fine-grained metabolic consequences of excess body weight remain unclear. We used a novel profiling technology developed in our research group to examine the metabolic consequences of excess body weight. We profiled over 12,000 healthy young volunteers from the general population to determine the detailed metabolic effects of having higher BMI (body mass index). We found that higher BMI is causing adverse metabolic changes in the blood levels of many amino acids and lipids, as well as an altered balance of omega-fatty acids and sex hormones. These measures have been linked with higher risk for developing heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Importantly, the metabolic deviations were not limited to obese individuals, but were observed in a continuous manner including for those who are lean or overweight. In other words, the metabolic profile becomes more adverse for any increase in BMI, with no threshold below which an increase in BMI would not affect the cardiometabolic risk profile. Genetic information was used to demonstrate that the metabolic effects are actually caused by having higher BMI. On the positive side, even a modest weight loss helped to diminish the adverse metabolic influences of excess body fat.

Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Dr. Würtz: Adiposity affects multiple metabolic pathways in a causal manner. Not only cholesterol and glucose levels, but also many other metabolic risk factors. The combined effects of adiposity across the metabolite profile in young adults may help to explain how adiposity mediates the risk for developing chronic diseases later in life. However, a high-risk cardiometabolic profile is not fixed once established, but can be reversed in early adulthood with the help of weight loss.

Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Dr. Würtz: To understand the role of obesity on metabolism and disease risk, it is important to assess a more comprehensive metabolic profile than the current focus on a handful of risk factors. Future research should address how the detailed metabolic markers relate to the risk for common metabolic diseases, and whether the metabolites are direct causes of the increased morbidity or simply markers of underlying disease processes.


Metabolic Signatures of Adiposity in Young Adults: Mendelian Randomization Analysis and Effects of Weight Change

Würtz P, Wang Q, Kangas AJ, Richmond RC, Skarp J, et al. (2014) Metabolic Signatures of Adiposity in Young Adults: Mendelian Randomization Analysis and Effects of Weight Change.

PLoS Med 11(12): e1001765. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.100176



Last Updated on December 11, 2014 by Marie Benz MD FAAD