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Health Club Management

Health Club Management

features

Healthy obesity?

New research among 16 sets of identical twins sheds light on why some obese people remain healthy despite their weight

By Katie Barnes, Spa Business | Published in Health Club Management 2013 issue 11

Around one-third of people who are severely overweight show no sign of typical metabolic problems. They’re known as the ‘healthy obese’ and, in spite of their extra pounds, they don’t have high cholesterol, their blood pressure isn’t elevated and they don’t show any signs of diabetes. So why is this?

A new study* published in the October edition of Diabetologia suggests that impaired mitochondria may be the key to maintaining their metabolic form, with an un-fatty liver a key biomarker.

Twin tests
Researchers at the University of Helsinki in Finland based their study on 16 sets of identical (monozygotic) twins as it enabled them to take the impact of genetics, as well as other environmental factors, into account.

The twins, aged between 23 and 36 years, were picked because in each case one twin was obese and the other lean. In half of the pairs, the obese twin was as metabolically healthy as their lean twin – meaning they fell into the healthy obese bracket. In the other eight pairs, the obese twin had all the hallmarks of an unhealthy obese person – high blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and increased blood sugar and insulin.

In both halves, the average weight difference between the twins was the same (40lbs). However, extensive tests showed vast differences in their fat tissue.

The researchers found the unhealthy obese twins had malfunctioning mitochondria – the parts of cells that harvest energy from food. They also had a lower level of new fat cells (it’s believed having impaired mitochondria restricts the growth of new fat cells) which puts pressure on the cells that do exist, so they eventually die. Before they die, however, they become inflamed and fat is shuttled into parts of the body where it doesn’t belong, such as the heart and other organs.

In comparison, the healthy obese twins with fully functioning mitochondria had more new fat cells. In addition, their fat settled under the skin rather than around organs, and also accumulated around the thighs as opposed to the abdomen.

Liver biomarker
Another finding was that the unhealthy obese twins had significantly higher liver fat (around seven times higher). Study lead Dr Jussi Naukkarienen told the New York Times: “The group who don’t gain fat in the liver as they get obese seem to avoid inflammation and maintain their metabolic health. There is a complete difference in how they react to obesity.”

Naukkarienen’s findings back up the work of colleague Hannele Yki-Järvinen, who has demonstrated that non-alcoholic fatty liver disease determines whether an overweight person develops metabolic disorders. Yki-Järvinen points to insulin resistance: when the liver gets fatty, insulin can’t regulate the amount of sugar and fat that the liver secretes into the blood.

Growing risk
The new report warns, however, that healthy obese people – already a minority – may not stay that way. Other studies have shown that the ‘healthy obesity’ stage is more common in younger adults, and the condition could worsen with age or advanced obesity.

Yki-Järvinen is keen to conduct further studies on how diet can induce fatty liver disease, while Naukkarienen says future studies could focus on potential drugs “with the most effective intervention point perhaps being improving mitochondrial function and prevention of inflammation in adipose tissue”.

*Naukkarienen, J et al. Characterising metabolically healthy obesity in weight discordant monozygotic twins. Diabetologia. October 2013

http://www.leisureopportunities.com/images/HCM2013_11health.gif
Research into twins shows some obese people can still be healthy
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features

Healthy obesity?

New research among 16 sets of identical twins sheds light on why some obese people remain healthy despite their weight

By Katie Barnes, Spa Business | Published in Health Club Management 2013 issue 11

Around one-third of people who are severely overweight show no sign of typical metabolic problems. They’re known as the ‘healthy obese’ and, in spite of their extra pounds, they don’t have high cholesterol, their blood pressure isn’t elevated and they don’t show any signs of diabetes. So why is this?

A new study* published in the October edition of Diabetologia suggests that impaired mitochondria may be the key to maintaining their metabolic form, with an un-fatty liver a key biomarker.

Twin tests
Researchers at the University of Helsinki in Finland based their study on 16 sets of identical (monozygotic) twins as it enabled them to take the impact of genetics, as well as other environmental factors, into account.

The twins, aged between 23 and 36 years, were picked because in each case one twin was obese and the other lean. In half of the pairs, the obese twin was as metabolically healthy as their lean twin – meaning they fell into the healthy obese bracket. In the other eight pairs, the obese twin had all the hallmarks of an unhealthy obese person – high blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and increased blood sugar and insulin.

In both halves, the average weight difference between the twins was the same (40lbs). However, extensive tests showed vast differences in their fat tissue.

The researchers found the unhealthy obese twins had malfunctioning mitochondria – the parts of cells that harvest energy from food. They also had a lower level of new fat cells (it’s believed having impaired mitochondria restricts the growth of new fat cells) which puts pressure on the cells that do exist, so they eventually die. Before they die, however, they become inflamed and fat is shuttled into parts of the body where it doesn’t belong, such as the heart and other organs.

In comparison, the healthy obese twins with fully functioning mitochondria had more new fat cells. In addition, their fat settled under the skin rather than around organs, and also accumulated around the thighs as opposed to the abdomen.

Liver biomarker
Another finding was that the unhealthy obese twins had significantly higher liver fat (around seven times higher). Study lead Dr Jussi Naukkarienen told the New York Times: “The group who don’t gain fat in the liver as they get obese seem to avoid inflammation and maintain their metabolic health. There is a complete difference in how they react to obesity.”

Naukkarienen’s findings back up the work of colleague Hannele Yki-Järvinen, who has demonstrated that non-alcoholic fatty liver disease determines whether an overweight person develops metabolic disorders. Yki-Järvinen points to insulin resistance: when the liver gets fatty, insulin can’t regulate the amount of sugar and fat that the liver secretes into the blood.

Growing risk
The new report warns, however, that healthy obese people – already a minority – may not stay that way. Other studies have shown that the ‘healthy obesity’ stage is more common in younger adults, and the condition could worsen with age or advanced obesity.

Yki-Järvinen is keen to conduct further studies on how diet can induce fatty liver disease, while Naukkarienen says future studies could focus on potential drugs “with the most effective intervention point perhaps being improving mitochondrial function and prevention of inflammation in adipose tissue”.

*Naukkarienen, J et al. Characterising metabolically healthy obesity in weight discordant monozygotic twins. Diabetologia. October 2013

http://www.leisureopportunities.com/images/HCM2013_11health.gif
Research into twins shows some obese people can still be healthy
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Public Health England (PHE) and the Centre for Ageing Better (CAB) have set out their ...
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Featured supplier: Fusion Lifestyle incorporates Power Plate into ‘INTENCITY Studios’
Fusion Lifestyle, the highly experienced sports and leisure management brand is working with Power Plate to integrate vibration training into its high intensity fitness studios.
Featured supplier news
Featured supplier: Join FitNation - the new fitness congress about innovation
FitNation, the new premier event about innovation in the fitness industry, will kick-off in Amsterdam on 4 October.
Opinion
promotion
An ever-increasing number of Brits are engaging in sporting events, setting themselves goals and looking to increase their fitness levels....
Opinion: Dr Crionna Tobin on nutritional training for PTs and fitness experts
As an industry, we still underestimate the power of a truly varied fitness regime - and the growing appetite for it, especially among emerging customer segments.
Opinion: Collaboration vs aggregation - what’s the difference?
Video Gallery
Optimum Nutrition for Health and Performance.
Optimum Nutrition
Optimum Nutrition for Health and Performance is an Association for Nutrition (AfN) certified nutrition course & approved for CPD points from REPs and CIMSPA. Read more
More videos:
Company profiles
Company profile: The JC Group
The JC Group is home to JC Facilities Management, JC Leisure Solutions, JC Water Services, ...
Company profiles
Company profile: Physical Company Ltd
Physical Company provides specialist fitness solutions. This includes equipment, flooring, gym design, programming and training ...
Catalogue Gallery
Click on a catalogue to view it online
Directory
Member access schemes
Move GB: Member access schemes
Hydrotherapy / spa fragrances
Kemitron GmbH: Hydrotherapy / spa fragrances
Lockers/interior design
Fitlockers: Lockers/interior design
Exercise equipment
Star Trac / Core Health & Fitness: Exercise equipment
Professional services
Deloitte UK: Professional services
Direct debit solutions
Harlands Group: Direct debit solutions
Fitness equipment
FunXtion International BV: Fitness equipment
Management software
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Kirklees Active Leisure
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Hotel Royal Savoy, Lausanne, Switzerland
Diary dates
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NEC, Birmingham, United Kingdom
Diary dates
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Koelnmesse, Cologne, Germany
Diary dates
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Diary dates
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The King’s Fund, London, United Kingdom
Diary dates
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Diary dates
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Diary dates
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Diary dates
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Diary dates
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