Haims: Coexistence of obesity, excess adipose tissue, and diabetes

Our hunter-gather ancestors would lose their minds to see what we have become.

Over the past few decades, we have become a civilization that has succumbed to comfort perversion. We live in bigger temperature-controlled homes, saving us from the harshness of nature’s elements. We are obsessed with handheld electronic entertainment. Prepared food, meal kit food, groceries and even drugs are delivered to our homes. We have become a society that rarely must leave the comfort(s) of home. We are thus becoming lazy, fat, complacent and unhappy/depressed.

Over the past 20 years, the prevalence of obesity in the U.S. has increased from about 30.5% in 2000 to about 41.9% in 2020 (that’s four in 10 people). At the same time, so has type 2 diabetes. In 2020, the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases provided data that showed that an estimated one in 10 people in the U.S. have diabetes. Considering that just a bit over 10 years ago the prevalence was less than one in seven people, we’ve experienced a precipitous climb in diabetes.

There are many factors contributing to the proliferation of society’s elevated levels of obesity, excessive adipose tissue and chronic diseases that follow hand-in-hand. Eating patterns, lack of physical activity, sleep routines, socioeconomics and medications such as steroids and some antidepressants are among the factors.

Difference in obesity and excessive adipose tissue

Obesity is a disease that can be defined as a level of body weight that is in an unhealthy range. When someone’s Body Mass Index (a measurement of weight related to height) exceeds that of 30 or more, they are considered obese. Obesity causes harmful changes to adipose tissue causing inflammation and the accommodation of excessive caloric intake. This ultimately causes a change in the body’s ability to store and remove fats.

Support Local Journalism

Recent research

Through the development of new drugs and research, scientists may be better able to treat obesity, excessive adipose tissue and ultimately diabetes. Research at the University of Cambridge is showing promise that there is potential to turn white adipose tissue (WAT) into brown adipose tissue (BAT), which may help treat obesity.

Adipose tissue is not all together bad. Rather it is considered a very important and active endocrine organ. As well, it plays an important role in the regulation of glucose, cholesterol and the metabolism of sex hormones. In humans, there are two types of adipose tissue — white adipose tissue, which stores energy (calories), and brown adipose tissue, which generates body heat and burns energy (calories).

Researchers at the University of Cambridge have discovered a molecule found in the blood called BMP8b and another inflammatory molecule called LBT4. These molecules regulate the activation of brown fat in both the brain and the body’s tissues. While only conducted in the lab, researchers believe that further studies may lead to the development of a drug that may cause BAT to become more active and thus initiate the changing of BAT to WAT.

Until such a drug is developed, we can promote the development and activation of BAT ourselves. As obesity is often based on lifestyle choices, people must be proactive in making changes. Any activity that gets people off the couch is going to be one of the best methods to increase BAT and control obesity. However, there are foods that are believed to be helpful in activating BAT such as strawberries, green tea, black ginseng tea, cinnamon and curcumin.

When people choose to frequently consume unhealthy foods full of fats, sugars and preservatives, blood sugar and insulin levels rise and promote inflammation — leading to diabetes. Our hunter-gather ancestors had to walk and forage for foods grown in and/or living on the land. Foods were natural and eaten for sustenance, not boredom nor pleasure. Further, the consumption of food necessitated exercise.

Diabetes is a killer and its symptoms are often not noticed until harm to the body has already occurred. By maintaining a healthy body weight, being physically active and eating a healthy diet, we can dramatically reduce the occurrence of diabetes. If you would like to know if you may be pre-diabetic or already have diabetes, ask your medical provider to provide a blood screening.

Support Local Journalism