TAG: "Obesity"

The connection between oxygen and diabetes


A lack of oxygen in fat cells triggers inflammation and insulin resistance in obesity.

Researchers at the UC San Diego School of Medicine have, for the first time, described the sequence of early cellular responses to a high-fat diet, one that can result in obesity-induced insulin resistance and diabetes. The findings, published in today’s (June 5) issue of Cell, also suggest potential molecular targets for preventing or reversing the process.

“We’ve described the etiology of obesity-related diabetes. We’ve pinpointed the steps, the way the whole thing happens,” said Jerrold M. Olefsky, M.D., associate dean for scientific affairs and Distinguished Professor of Medicine at UC San Diego. “The research is in mice, but the evidence suggests that the processes are comparable in humans, and these findings are important to not just understanding how diabetes begins, but how better to treat and prevent it.”

More than 25 million Americans have diabetes – 8.3 percent of the population – with another 79 million Americans estimated to be pre-diabetic, according to the American Diabetes Association. Diabetes is characterized by high blood sugar levels poorly regulated by either inadequate insulin production or because cells to not respond properly to the regulating hormone. Diabetes is the seventh-leading cause of death in the United States and a major risk factor for other life-threatening conditions, including heart disease and stroke.

Past research by Olefsky and others has shown that obesity is characterized by low-grade inflammation in adipose or fat tissues and that this inflammatory state can become chronic and result in systemic insulin resistance and diabetes. In today’s Cell paper, the scientists describe the earliest stages of the process, which begins even before obesity becomes manifest.

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Poor health, lifestyle factors linked to memory complaints


Early complaints often precursors to significant decline in later life, UCLA/Gallup study says.

Gary Small, UCLA

If you’re depressed, don’t get enough exercise or have high blood pressure, you may find yourself complaining more about memory problems, even if you’re a young adult, according to a new UCLA study.

UCLA researchers and the Gallup organization polled more than 18,000 people about their memory and a variety of lifestyle and health factors previously shown to increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. They found that many of these risk factors increased the likelihood of self-perceived memory complaints across all adult age groups.

The findings, published in today’s (June 4) edition of the journal PLOS ONE, may help scientists better identify how early lifestyle and health choices impact memory later in life. Examining these potential relationships, researchers say, could also help to pinpoint interventions aimed at lowering the risk of memory issues.

The 18,552 individuals polled ranged in age from 18 to 99. The known risk factors the researchers focused on included depression, lower education levels, physical inactivity, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity and smoking. They were surprised by the prevalence of memory issues among younger adults, said the study’s senior author, Dr. Gary Small, UCLA’s Parlow–Solomon Professor on Aging and director of the UCLA Longevity Center.

“In this study, for the first time, we determined these risk factors may also be indicative of early memory complaints, which are often precursors to more significant memory decline later in life,” said Small, who is also a professor of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA.

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Pain killers may improve health of diabetics and the obese


Blocking pain receptor may improve lifespan, metabolic health.

Chili peppers

Blocking a pain receptor in mice not only extends their lifespan, it also gives them a more youthful metabolism, including an improved insulin response that allows them to deal better with high blood sugar.

“We think that blocking this pain receptor and pathway could be very, very useful not only for relieving pain, but for improving lifespan and metabolic health, and in particular for treating diabetes and obesity in humans,” said Andrew Dillin, a professor of molecular and cell biology at the University of California, Berkeley, and senior author of a new paper describing these results. “As humans age they report a higher incidence of pain, suggesting that pain might drive the aging process.”

The “hot” compound in chili peppers, capsaicin, is already known to activate this pain receptor, called TRPV1 (transient receptor potential cation channel subfamily V member 1). In fact, TRPV1 is often called the capsaicin receptor. Constant activation of the receptor on a nerve cell results in death of the neuron, mimicking loss of TRPV1, which could explain why diets rich in capsaicin have been linked to a lower incidence of diabetes and metabolic problems in humans.

More relevant therapeutically, however, is an anti-migraine drug already on the market that inhibits a protein called CGRP that is triggered by TRPV1, producing an effect similar to that caused by blocking TRPV1. Dillin showed that giving this drug to older mice restored their metabolic health to that of younger mice.

“Our findings suggest that pharmacological manipulation of TRPV1 and CGRP may improve metabolic health and longevity,” said Dillin, who is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator and the Thomas and Stacey Siebel Distinguished Chair in Stem Cell Research. “Alternatively, chronic ingestion of compounds that affect TRPV1 might help prevent metabolic decline with age and lead to increased longevity in humans.”

Dillin and his colleagues at UC Berkeley and The Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla will publish their results in the May 22 issue of the journal Cell.

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Study aims to boost health of immigrant Latino farmworkers


UC Davis, UC Berkeley participate in $3M study.

A new, collaborative study aimed at designing and evaluating worksite-based health programs to lower the risk of obesity and diabetes among immigrant Latino farmworkers has been launched under the leadership of UC Davis.

The new five-year study, to be carried out through a partnership between UC Davis; Reiter Affiliated Companies, a large California berry grower; and the Health Initiative of the Americas at UC Berkeley; was recently funded with more than $3 million in grant funds from the National Institute of Diabetes, Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

“Latino farmworkers harvest much of our fruit and vegetables, yet they face obesity and diabetes rates much higher than the general population,” said lead investigator Marc Schenker, director of the UC Migration and Health Research Center and the Western Center for Agricultural Health and Safety, and a distinguished professor in UC Davis’ Department of Public Health Sciences.

He noted that the prevalence of obesity and diabetes has rapidly increased during the past decade in the United States. Among Latinos, the prevalence of overweight and obesity is now an alarming 78 percent, markedly higher than in the general population. Furthermore, the prevalence of diabetes among Latinos in the U.S. is almost twice that of non-Latino whites.

“To address that problem, we have created and are evaluating an obesity and diabetes prevention program that can be delivered to workers in the field,” Schenker said.

The study will include food and nutrition educational programs at the participants’ on-farm worksites, as well as exercise activities such as Zumba classes. All programs are led by community health workers or “promotoras.”

The study focuses on ranches in Salinas and Watsonville, but the ultimate goal is to disseminate the intervention program to farms throughout the state and country.

The program is designed to improve health outcomes among the farmworkers participating in the study and to evaluate those outcomes, as well as the economic impact for the employer.

“We hope that the economic benefits — which we anticipate will be demonstrated and quantified through this study — will help convince other companies in the agricultural industry to adopt similar programs,” Schenker said.

He added that Reiter Affiliated Cos. is a model industry partner for this study because it is already invested in the health of its workers.

Co-investigators on the study include Daniel Sumner, a professor of agricultural and resource economics at UC Davis and director of the UC Agricultural Issues Center; Nancy Keim, an adjunct professor in the UC Davis Department of Nutrition; Heejung Bang, a professor of biostatistics at UC Davis; and Xochitl Castaneda, director of the Health Initiative of the Americas at UC Berkeley.

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Polar bear genome gives new insight into adaptations to high-fat diet


Findings may provide insight into how to protect humans from ill effects of a high-fat diet.

A comparison of the genomes of polar bears and brown bears reveals that the polar bear is a much younger species than previously believed, having diverged from brown bears less than 500,000 years ago.

The analysis also uncovered several genes that may be involved in the polar bears’ extreme adaptations to life in the high Arctic. The species lives much of its life on sea ice, where it subsists on a blubber-rich diet of primarily marine mammals.

The genes pinpointed by the study are related to fatty acid metabolism and cardiovascular function, and may explain the bear’s ability to cope with a high-fat diet while avoiding fatty plaques in their arteries and the cardiovascular diseases that afflict humans with diets rich in fat. These genes may provide insight into how to protect humans from the ill effects of a high-fat diet.

The study was a collaboration between Danish researchers, led by Eske Willerslev and including Rune Dietz, Christian Sonne and Erik W. Born, who provided polar bear blood and tissue samples; and researchers at BGI in China, including Shiping Liu, Guojie Zhang and Jun Wang, who sequenced the genomes and analyzed the data together with a team of UC Berkeley researchers, including Eline Lorenzen, Matteo Fumagalli and Rasmus Nielsen. Nielsen is a UC Berkeley professor of integrative biology and of statistics.

“For polar bears, profound obesity is a benign state,” said Lorenzen, one of the lead authors and a UC Berkeley postdoctoral fellow. “We wanted to understand how they are able to cope with that.”

“The promise of comparative genomics is that we learn how other organisms deal with conditions that we also are exposed to,” said Nielsen, a member of UC Berkeley’s Center for Theoretical Evolutionary Genomics. “For example, polar bears have adapted genetically to a high fat diet that many people now impose on themselves. If we learn a bit about the genes that allows them to deal with that, perhaps that will give us tools to modulate human physiology down the line.”

The findings accompany the publication of the first assembled genome of the polar bear as the cover story in today’s issue of the journal Cell.

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Childhood obesity drops with new school nutrition program, study shows


The program could be adopted nationally at little cost to schools, researchers say.

Principal Paul Hauder (left) and student Cody Tufts of Carroll Elementary School in Elk Grove Unified School District have fun at a 2013 Sharing Healthy Choices program developed at UC Davis. (Photo by Kelley Brian, UC Davis)

The percentage of overweight or obese children in test schools dropped from 56 percent to 38 percent over the course of a single school year, thanks to a new nutrition program  developed and tested in the classroom by nutrition researchers at UC Davis.

The new program fits into the new Common Core educational standards.

“The education component of this program is intended to help children develop nutrition-related problem solving skills,” said co-author Jessica Linnell, a senior doctoral candidate in the UC Davis Department of Nutrition. “We think that these skills, combined with knowledge about foods, may be critical in order for children to make healthy choices.”

Researchers say the program could be adopted nationally at little cost to schools. The program was pilot-tested for this study in schools located in Sacramento and Stanislaus counties. Study findings were reported recently during the Experimental Biology 2014 meeting.

“When we designed the study, we anticipated short-term outcomes such as kids having more knowledge of nutrition or being able to identify more vegetables,” said Rachel Scherr, assistant project scientist in the UC Davis Department of Nutrition and one of the study’s lead investigators.  “We always had a long-term goal of decreasing body mass index, but we didn’t anticipate that it would happen in such a short timeframe, so we are thrilled.”

In a randomized control study, the researchers found that fourth-graders who participated in the nutrition program ate substantially more vegetables and lowered their body mass index during the school year that the nutrition program was implemented.

Senior author Sheri Zidenberg-Cherr, a Cooperative Extension nutrition specialist and co-director of the UC Davis Center for Nutrition in Schools, said that the project could not have been possible without the work of a highly interdisciplinary team, including collaborators from University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources; the UC Davis departments of Nutrition, Human Ecology, Population Health and Reproduction, and Plant Sciences; the UC Davis Health System, Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing, Foods for Health Institute and Agricultural Sustainability Institute; and the University of Utah Department of Physics and Astronomy.

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Being called ‘fat’ makes young girls more likely to become obese


Trying to be thin is like trying to be tall, say UCLA psychologists.

A. Janet Tomiyama, UCLA

Girls who are told by a parent, sibling, friend, classmate or teacher that they are too fat at age 10 are more likely to be obese at age 19, a new study by UCLA psychologists shows.

The study looked at 1,213 African-American girls and 1,166 white girls living in Northern California, Cincinnati and Washington, D.C., 58 percent of whom had been told they were too fat at age 10. All the girls had their height and weight measured at the beginning of the study and again after nine years.

Overall, the girls labeled fat were 1.66 times more likely than the other girls to be obese at 19, the researchers found. They also found that as the number of people who told a girl she was fat increased, so did the likelihood that she would be obese nine years later. The findings appear in the June 2014 print issue of the journal JAMA Pediatrics and are published online April 28.

“Simply being labeled as too fat has a measurable effect almost a decade later. We nearly fell off our chairs when we discovered this,” said A. Janet Tomiyama, an assistant professor of psychology in the UCLA College of Letters and Science and the study’s senior author. “Even after we statistically removed the effects of their actual weight, their income, their race and when they reached puberty, the effect remained.

“That means it’s not just that heavier girls are called too fat and are still heavy years later; being labeled as too fat is creating an additional likelihood of being obese.”

Co-author Jeffrey Hunger, a graduate student at UC Santa Barbara, said that simply being called fat may lead to behaviors that later result in obesity.

“Being labeled as too fat may lead people to worry about personally experiencing the stigma and discrimination faced by overweight individuals, and recent research suggests that experiencing or anticipating weight stigma increases stress and can lead to overeating,” he said.

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Community-based weight loss program aids diabetes management


Majority of participants in trial lost weight and reduced medication use.

Cheryl Rock, UC San Diego

Weight loss and control of blood sugar can reduce the risk of complications in patients with diabetes, but this is difficult for many to achieve. A UC San Diego School of Medicine randomized controlled trial of obese adults with type 2 diabetes suggests that participants enrolled in a community-based structured weight loss program are able to shed more pounds, improve blood sugar control and reduce or eliminate insulin use and other medications compared to a control group.

“Support and a tailored lifestyle intervention have been shown to reduce cardiovascular disease risk factors and adverse outcomes in people with diabetes,” said Cheryl L. Rock, Ph.D., R.D., professor of family and preventive medicine and principal investigator of the study. “However, most overweight individuals with type 2 diabetes do not receive this degree of support for changes in diet and physical activity to promote weight loss in their clinical care, due in part to constraints of time and training for most health care providers and clinicians.”

The results of the study, published in today’s (April 23) online issue of Diabetes Care, found that 72 percent of participants on the weight loss program that included portion-controlled foods and personalized counseling were able to change their insulin use compared with 8 percent of the control group. Similarly, other diabetes, cholesterol and blood pressure drugs were decreased or discontinued more often among the weight loss program enrollees.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 35 percent of adults in the United States are obese and 8 percent of adults are affected by diabetes.

“Weight loss is a primary strategy for successful management of type 2 diabetes due to its impact on glycemic control and improvements in cardiovascular disease risk factors,” said Rock. “These study results suggest that patients not only lose weight on structured commercial weight loss programs that include behavioral modification and individual support, but that this weight loss translates to significant improvements in diabetes control and cardio-metabolic parameters.”

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Does a junk food diet make you lazy?


UCLA psychology study offers answer.

Aaron Blaisdell, UCLA

A new UCLA psychology study provides evidence that being overweight makes people tired and sedentary — not the other way around.

Life scientists led by UCLA’s Aaron Blaisdell placed 32 female rats on one of two diets for six months. The first, a standard rat’s diet, consisted of relatively unprocessed foods like ground corn and fish meal. The ingredients in the second were highly processed, of lower quality and included substantially more sugar — a proxy for a junk food diet.

After just three months, the researchers observed a significant difference in the amount of weight the rats had gained, with the 16 on the junk food diet having become noticeably fatter.

“One diet led to obesity, the other didn’t,” said Blaisdell, a professor of psychology in the UCLA College of Letters and Science and a member of UCLA’s Brain Research Institute.

The experiments the researchers performed, Blaisdell said, also suggest that fatigue may result from a junk food diet.

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Bariatric surgery decreases risk of uterine cancer


Findings indicate obesity may be a modifiable risk factor for endometrial cancer.

Researchers at the UC San Diego School of Medicine and Moores Cancer Center report that bariatric surgery resulting in dramatic weight loss in formerly severely obese women reduces the risk of endometrial (uterine) cancer by 71 percent and as much as 81 percent if normal weight is maintained after surgery.

Published in the April issue of Gynecologic Oncology, the official publication of the Society of Gynecologic Oncology, the findings indicate obesity may be a modifiable risk factor for endometrial cancer, and bariatric surgery a viable option for eligible patients. They are based on a retrospective cohort study of 7,431,858 patients in the University HealthSystem Consortium database, which contains information from contributing academic medical centers in the United States and affiliated hospitals. Of this total, 103,797 patients had a history of bariatric surgery and 44,345 had a diagnosis of uterine malignancy.

Obesity is a widespread public health problem in the United States, with an estimated two-thirds of the U.S. adult population considered to be overweight or obese. The condition is strongly linked to a host of health risks, among them heart disease, diabetes and cancer, in particular endometrial cancer.

“Estimating from various studies that looked at increasing BMI and endometrial cancer risk, a woman with a body mass index (BMI) of 40 would have approximately eight times greater risk of endometrial cancer than someone with a BMI of 25,” said first author Kristy Ward, M.D., the senior gynecologic oncology fellow in the Department of Reproductive Medicine at UC San Diego School of Medicine. “This risk likely continues to go up as BMI goes up.”

Bariatric surgery is often the last resort for obese patients after all other non-surgical weight loss efforts have failed. To qualify, patients must be an acceptable surgical risk and be defined as either severely obese with a BMI of 40 or greater or have a BMI of 35 or greater with at least one related condition: diabetes, obstructive sleep apnea, obesity-related cardiomyopathy or heart muscle disease or severe joint disease.

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Child obesity: cues and don’ts


Study suggests training kids to pay less attention to food might help them eat less.

Kerri Boutelle, UC San Diego

Among the multiple factors that can cause obesity is an abnormal neurocognitive or behavioral response to food cues. The brain becomes wired to seek – and expect – greater rewards from food, which leads to unhealthful overeating.

Attention modification programs, which train a person to ignore or disregard specific, problematic cues or triggers, have been used effectively to treat cases of anxiety and substance abuse. In a novel study published this week in the journal Appetite, Kerri Boutelle, Ph.D., professor of pediatrics and psychiatry at the UC San Diego School of Medicine, and colleagues report using a single session of attention modification to decrease overeating in obese children.

“Attentional bias is a long-studied psychological phenomenon,” said Boutelle. “Attentional bias to food means that food grabs a person’s attention. If two people were in a room with potato chips on the table, the person with attentional bias would be paying attention to, maybe looking at, the chips and the person without the bias would not really notice or pay attention to them.

“We believe that there is a group of people who are inherently sensitive to food cues and, over time, eating in response to paying attention to food makes them pay even more attention.  It’s based on Pavlovian conditioning.”

Obesity in the United States is a well-documented problem, with more than a third of American adults considered to be obese. Child obesity is equally alarming, with an estimated one-third of American children overweight or obese. These children are at greater risk for cardiovascular disease, cancer, orthopedic and endocrine conditions and more likely to die earlier.

Boutelle and colleagues investigated whether attention modification training might be another way to treat problematic eating and obesity in children. In a novel pilot study, they recruited 24 overweight and obese children between the ages of 8 and 12 and split them into two groups.

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Geographic variation of human gut microbes tied to obesity


Changes in latitude may influence more than attitude.

The researchers looked at data from more than 1,000 people from around the world. The blue represents the proportion of obesity-related bacteria in the gut, while red is the proportion of bacteria associated with slimness.

People living in cold, northern latitudes have bacteria in their guts that may predispose them to obesity, according to a new study by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of Arizona, Tucson.

The researchers’ analysis of the gut microbes of more than a thousand people from around the world showed that those living in northern latitudes had more gut bacteria that have been linked to obesity than did people living farther south.

The meta-analysis of six earlier studies was published this month in the online journal Biology Letters by UC Berkeley graduate student Taichi Suzuki and evolutionary biology professor Michael Worobey of the University of Arizona.

“People think obesity is a bad thing, but maybe in the past getting more fat and more energy from the diet might have been important to survival in cold places. Our gut microbes today might be influenced by our ancestors,” said Suzuki, noting that one theory is that obesity-linked bacteria are better at extracting energy from food. “This suggests that what we call ‘healthy microbiota’ may differ in different geographic regions.”

“This observation is pretty cool, but it is not clear why we are seeing the relationship we do with latitude,” Worobey said. “There is something amazing and weird going on with microbiomes.”

To Worobey, the results are fascinating from an evolutionary biology perspective. “Maybe changes to your gut community of bacteria are important for allowing populations to adapt to different environmental conditions in lots of animals, including humans,” he said.

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