What’s new in obesity research and prevention?
NIDDK experts will discuss research aimed at informing the prevention and treatment of obesity.
For a recent Facebook Live event, NIDDK Director Dr. Griffin P. Rodgers Dr. Susan Z. Yanovski, co-director of the NIDDK Office for Obesity Research, and Dr. Marc L. Reitman, director of the NIDDK Diabetes, Endocrinology, and Obesity Branch on the NIDDK research effort aimed at improving the prevention and treatment of adult obesity. Their wide-ranging conversation covered weight loss strategies, coordinated research approaches from the NIH Obesity Research Task Force, and the NIDDK Strategic Plan for Research.
“Obesity affects more than 40% of adults in the United States, a trend that continues to increase,” said Dr. Rogers during the event. “Just a modest weight loss, say 5% or 7%, can result in a significant and clinically important reduction in disease risk factors such as blood pressure, type 2 diabetes incidence and osteoarthritis pain.”
dr Yanovski described risk factors for obesity such as diet, physical activity, stress, sleep, genetics, a child’s prenatal environment, and social determinants of health. “A seemingly simple question – ‘What should I eat to be healthier and lose weight?’ – is not easy at all, nor is it the same for people of different ages or sizes,” said Dr. Yanovski. “In addition to intervening at the individual level, we also need environment- and community-based approaches, that is, policy-making, to make the healthy choice the easy choice.”
For many people, clinically meaningful weight loss can be achieved through behavior change counseling tools such as goal setting, feedback, self-control, social support, and problem solving. “But even with the best behavioral therapy programs available, about half of people fail to lose enough weight to improve their health,” said Dr. Yanovski.
Many people find it difficult to maintain a weight loss and eventually gain it back. “There’s a very interesting physiology that says the body doesn’t want to lose weight,” said Dr. Reitman. “People who have lost weight actually have higher hunger drives and become metabolically more efficient, so they continue to have to eat less to maintain that weight-reduced state.”
A new NIDDK research project, The Physiology of the Weight Reduced State Clinical Trial Consortium, is trying to better understand why some people are able to lose weight and maintain their weight loss while many others struggle. Researchers are working to learn more about what happens to appetite, energy expenditure, and energy efficiency after weight loss. Hopefully, understanding these mechanisms can lead to more weight loss treatments designed for the individual.
Other studies conducted by NIDDK’s Division of Diabetes, Endocrinology and Obesity advance scientific understanding of the physiology of obesity. These studies help other researchers conduct more targeted and successful human clinical trials. “Some of the specific examples of research being conducted in our industry include trying to study the differences in energy metabolism between mice and humans to better inform these human studies,” said Dr. Reitman. Other researchers are studying the gut microbiome, brown adipose tissue, and brain circuits that influence eating behavior.
Watch the full discussion in the video above and follow NIDDK on Facebook to be notified of our next Facebook Live event.