Sunday, September 24, 2023

UVA researchers discover why obesity causes disease. How many are obese in Virginia Beach?

VIRGINIA BEACH — Researchers at the University of Virginia are now able to explain why obesity causes harmful inflammation, which often leads to diabetes, clogged arteries, and other health problems.

Their findings may eventually lead to a medical treatment for the inflammation, which so often causes other health problems for obese Americans.

The research team found that unstable and damaging atoms called free radicals – produced naturally by our bodies – attack substances known as lipids inside the fat tissue, causing swelling.

“Now, knowing that some of these molecules are really bad guys, so to speak, eliminating them from the circulation may have a very beneficial effect on chronic diseases,” said Norbert Leitinger, PhD, in the university’s Department of Pharmacology.

In Virginia Beach 28 percent of the adult population is obese, according to the 2017 County Health Rankings. Obesity is defined as a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 30 percent or higher.

According to the Virginia Beach Department of Public Health’s 2016 Community Health Assessment, in total 68.3 percent of residents are either obese or overweight – which is a BMI between 25-29.9 percent.

The agency’s 2017 Community Health Improvement Plan identifies obesity as a target area in the Healthy Behaviors priority area.

In Virginia, 27 percent of the total population is obese, making the state 29th in the nation for adult obesity.

Identifying the cause of disease associated with obesity may allow for the development of a drug or treatment to combat the inflammation caused by the free radicals and lipids – a process termed lipid oxidation.

“All of these diseases have a common denominator,” said researcher Vlad Serbulea, PhD with the UVA School of Medicine. “It may well be that we’ve identified what starts off the whole cascade of inflammation and metabolic changes.”

In addition to type 2 diabetes, being overweight or obese increases the risk of things like high blood pressure, abnormal cholesterol, heart disease, stroke, breathing problems and breast, prostate and colon cancers.

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