Learn More About Obesity Research Studies
What Are Obesity Research Studies?
According to the World Health Organization, Obesity refers to excessive or abnormal accumulation of fat that poses a significant risk to one's health. Generally, a BMI of more than 25 qualifies an individual as being overweight, while a BMI of over 30 is enough to declare someone obese.
Unfortunately, obesity is no longer a regional issue. With more than 4 million people dying due to being overweight every year, the issue has conveniently reached endemic proportions. In fact, obesity is becoming a more serious issue than malnutrition, as more people are obese today than underweight.
The problem that was once prevalent in high-income countries is now taking hold in middle and low-income countries too. Today, most obese and overweight children live in developing countries than in developed ones.
Hence, conducting clinical trials and research studies to understand obesity better is imperative. These studies find out new ways to prevent, detect and treat the condition. Researchers today are looking into various areas, such as medication, surgical approaches, and novel behavior, to understand the condition and treat it appropriately.
Furthermore, clinical trials and studies help researchers identify which patients respond to certain diets or drugs. They also help them learn how obesity and other similar conditions may be linked to metabolism issues, bacteria in a person's gastrointestinal tract, and physical activity.
All in all, obesity research studies are at the heart of most advances in the field and assist researchers in looking at aspects of care too.
Why Is Obesity Being Studied Through Research Studies?
One major reason obesity is at the forefront of many research studies is that its prevalence increased sharply from 1980 onwards. While it was a prominent issue in the 60s and 70s, too, the rate of increase in the ensuing decades prompted researchers to take it seriously.
In fact, the prevalence of this disease increased sharply among adults, from 13.4% in 1980 to 34.3% in 2008. During the same period, the prevalence of the disease among children also increased from 5% to 17%.
While obesity is majorly a result of certain behavioral patterns among susceptible people, it isn't the only factor that has contributed to its increase. Food items high in calories are heavily advertised and have also become widely available.
People eat out more frequently, and portion sizes have also increased. Sweet beverages are widely available, while healthier beverages are nowhere to be seen. Again, dietary changes are not the only contributors to the endemic.
It is through research that researchers have been able to venture into the role of technology in spreading the disease. A number of technological innovations in workplaces and homes have contributed to a sharp decline in physical activity.
Physical education programs in schools are not as mainstream as they used to be. Hence, research studies allow researchers to look into the trends and social changes behind the epidemic along with the necessary actions needed to control it.
Given that worldwide obesity has tripled since 1975, the need to study it has become even more important. In the year 2016 alone, over 1.9 billion adults were overweight, and among them, 650 million were obese.
The good news is that obesity is preventable. Clinical trials and research studies aim to look into effective interventions that help make it preventable and curable.
What Are The Types of Treatments Available For Obesity?
Adopting healthy eating habits and being more physically active are usually the first lines of intervention in treating or managing obesity. Weight management programs also play a crucial role in helping people lose weight.
Common obesity treatments are as follows:
Using a professional's help, set goals that help you stay on track. Instead of working out more than your body can handle, set specific goals, such as walking for 15-20 minutes daily.
However, incorporating lifestyle changes isn't easy and isn't a linear journey. Setbacks are normal, and falling back to older habits for a while is also possible. Seeking help and encouragement from friends, family, and healthcare professionals are recommended every step of the way.
Medicines for Weight-Loss
Medicines are prescribed only when physical activity and healthy eating habits aren't enough to counter obesity. Medications such as orlistat, phentermine, naltrexone, and liraglutide are usually prescribed to adults but only after a detailed consultation with a healthcare professional. Professionals take into account various factors before prescribing medicines for weight loss.
A low-calorie diet can restrict people to less than 1500 calories a day, depending on individual circumstances. These circumstances can be related to physical activity levels and body weight, but low-calorie diets are usually inclusive of certain food items that provide the patient with healthy nutrients.
This type of surgery includes operations that make changes to your digestive system. However, it isn't usually recommended unless you have extreme obesity and haven't been able to manage it through other interventions. It may also be an option for people with type 2 diabetes or sleep apnea. Bariatric surgery is known to improve medical conditions linked to obesity, such as type 2 diabetes.
What Are Some Recent Breakthrough Research Studies on Obesity?
Over the years, clinical trials and research studies have focused on managing or treating the condition. While there has been some success in the field, studies are still underway to improve the prognosis for patients. Here are some breakthrough research studies on obesity.
2009: LOOK AHEAD: Action for Health in Diabetes Trial.
The study aimed to prove that people with type 2 diabetes can lose weight and also maintain their progress through a healthy eating and physical activity program. The study showed that losing weight could have access to many health benefits, such as improved quality of life and good physical mobility. The trial has been extended to study the long-term results of weight loss through physical activity and healthy eating programs in adults with diabetes.
2018: The Longitudinal Assessment of Bariatric Surgery.
This research followed over 2400 participants who had extreme obesity and who chose to undergo bariatric surgery. After seven years of following up with them, it was concluded that the surgery had a positive impact on many conditions, such as high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes. Furthermore, it was also safe and helped people manage their lost weight in the long run. At the same time, some risks were also identified. One of them included an elevated risk for alcohol use disorders in people who had gastric bypass surgery.
2022: Adipose Tissue Plasticity In Health And Disease
According to this research, obesity is more about the loss of function than accumulated fat. While obesity is linked to diabetes and hypertension, it isn't right to attribute these diseases to fat overabundance. Upon taking a closer look, researchers realized that fats don't only store energy, but they also play a vital role in immune response, body temperature maintenance, and regulation of insulin sensitivity. Hence, researchers believe that the negative impact of obesity is not only a result of fat excess but also from the lack of ability to respond to changes. It can also be referred to as "plasticity." When fat declines in plasticity due to obesity and aging, it also loses the ability to respond properly to bodily cues.
Who Are Some of the Key Opinion Leaders / Researchers / Institutions Conducting Obesity Research Studies?
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
NHLBI has supported many types of research on obesity and being overweight over the years. Due to their relentless efforts, certain treatment guidelines were also prepared to assist healthcare providers. Apart from evidence-based prevention, the institution has also led to the development of a proper guide on how to choose a weight loss program. Their current research on obesity focuses on health disparities due to differences in racial and ethnic backgrounds.
Tulane University Obesity Research Center
Established in 2016, TUORC has led obesity trials and research using clinical approaches. The center's primary goal is to facilitate more research on the etiology, lifestyle risk factors, prevention, and treatment of obesity along with complications such as kidney, hypertension, diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases. Furthermore, the research center also aims to improve obesity and nutrition education among individuals by incorporating personalized lifestyle and nutritional management of patients. TUORC also has close collaborations with Harvard Chan School of Public Health, Tulane University, and other institutes.
TUFTS Institute for Global Obesity Research (TIGOR)
TUFTS is one of the key research institutes in the US conducting research on obesity worldwide. With more than 40 faculty members and graduate students, the institute conducts research from basic science to societal solutions for treating and managing the condition. TUFTS medical center has played a crucial role in reversing and preventing obesity in order to create a more productive and healthier population across the world. All in all, the institute conducts trials and research to reduce obesity not only in the US but also in the rest of the world.
Obesity Research Unit, Helsinki
Located at the Meilahti campus of the University of Helsinki, the obesity research unit is led by Professor Kirsi Pietiläinen. Professor Pietiläinen is also a program director of the CAMM (Clinical and Molecular Medicine). This research unit collaborates closely with the Helsinki University Hospital's Obesity Center, which is one of the largest treatment units for obesity in Finland. The professor's group has also been part of the research on "Mitochondria, Metabolism and Disease of the Academy of Finland (FinMit; 2014-2019)."
Apart from being well-recognized for playing a role in research, the unit has also played a significant role in the spreading of information on obesity in Finland. The primary aim of this research unit is to identify the pathways underlying the variability between obese individuals. Another main focus of the lab is on clinical weight loss. Furthermore, in the obesity center of the University of Helsinki, a coaching program for obesity management has also been developed to help individuals seek the right kind of guidance and care for their individual needs. Last but not least, the institute also supports research into the effectiveness and impact of digital obesity management.