SIGNIFICANT alterations to the microbiome, cardiovascular system, and immune system can be caused by changes to an individual’s body weight, according to researchers at Stanford University, California, USA. The study found that even a modest weight gain led to changes in the body associated with conditions such as heart disease, and among insulin-resistant people an increase in weight caused a shift in gene expression linked to dilated cardiomyopathy.
In a cohort of 13 insulin-resistant and 10 healthy patients, the team observed dramatic molecular-level changes when the participants put on extra weight, even modest amounts, over a 30-day period. This caused bacterial populations to morph, immune responses and inflammation to flare, and the activation of molecular pathways associated with heart disease.
The researchers particularly wanted to see the effect of weight change on insulin-resistant patients to understand whether it increased risk factors for developing Type 2 diabetes. At baseline, there were significant differences between insulin-resistant and healthy patients; most notably, only in the bloodstream of insulin-resistant participants were molecular markers for inflammation found. Following 30 days of weight gain, there was a growth in the microbial population, Akkermansia muciniphila, which protects against insulin resistance, in these patients. Additionally, there was a shift in gene expression associated with dilated cardiomyopathy.
“I didn’t expect 30 days of overeating to change the whole heart pathway,” commented lead author Prof Michael Snyder, Stanford University. “But this all fits with how we think of the human body: it’s a whole system, not just a few isolated components, so there are systemwide changes when people gain weight.”
Encouragingly, the microbes, molecules, and gene expression levels recalibrated back to their original states in most patients after they lost the excess weight. However, shifts in protein and molecule production did persist after the weight loss took place, which indicates that these effects could be long-lasting.
The researchers also emphasised the major role that big data collection techniques, as demonstrated by the omics profiles used in this study, are likely to have on healthcare in the future.
James Coker, Reporter
For the source, and further information about the study, click here.