According to a recent study, there are two distinct subtypes of obesity, each of which affects how our bodies function. The discovery may not only help to more precisely diagnose weight-related illnesses, but it may also help to better tailor treatments for them.
Body mass index (BMI) measurements are currently used to diagnose obesity. Still, the team behind the new research claims that this method is overly simplistic and risks being deceptive by ignoring individual biological variations.
One of the recently discovered types of obesity is characterised by a higher fat mass, whereas the other has a higher fat and lean mass. Unexpectedly, the researchers found the second type was accompanied by elevated inflammation, which has been connected to a higher risk of cancer and other illnesses.
For the first time, J. claims that there are at least two distinct metabolic subtypes of obesity, each with unique physiological and molecular characteristics that affect health. Andrew Pospisilik, an epigenetics specialist at the Van Andel Institute in Michigan, is researching the metabolic disease.
“These results could be developed into a clinically useful test to help doctors give patients more precise care,” says the study.
The researchers identified four metabolic subtypes that affect body mass, two of which are predisposed to leanness and two of which are predisposed to obesity, using information from 153 pairs of twins gathered as part of the TwinsUK research project.
Using genetically identical mice were raised in the same environment and consumed the same amount of food; these findings were subsequently confirmed in laboratory mouse models.
These controls imply that something additional to diet, environment, and inheritance is occurring. Epigenetic markers are one possible explanation, which are non-coding changes made to DNA molecules and alter how genes are read. Twins with the same DNA code aren’t always identical, which is explained by epigenetics.
Pospisil, “Our lab results almost exactly replicated the data from human twins.”
We observed two distinct subtypes of obesity once more, one of which had higher lean mass and fat, high inflammatory signals, high insulin levels, and a robust epigenetic signature. This subtype appeared to be epigenetically triggerable.
As far as the researchers can tell, the chance appears to be the primary cause of the second type of obesity, the one connected to inflammation. As a result, these findings may also be relevant to the study of unexplained phenotypic variation (UPV), which is the hypothesis that factors other than our genes and environment shape who we are.
More than a century of research has gone into understanding UPV, and this study suggests a connection between UPV and epigenetics.
According to Pospisilik, “today’s findings highlight the value of recognising these subtle differences between people to guide more precise ways to treat disease.”
Future human validation studies should be able to distinguish between two (or more) types of obesity, which means that various obesity treatments, such as dietary changes or weight loss procedures, may differ depending on the type of obesity. A brand-new area of study has recently emerged.
Researchers are now looking to examine further the two types of obesity they’ve identified to develop guidelines that doctors can use to diagnose them differently.
We lack a system for classifying people based on their more specific disease etiologies, although more than 600 million people worldwide are obese, and nearly two billion are considered overweight.