31st Annual Meeting of the DAG: Joining Forces against the Obesity Epidemic

On October 15-17, 2015 more than 500 experts will meet at the 31st annual meeting of the German Obesity Society (DAG) in the Urania in Berlin in order to exchange information and to present and discuss the latest results of obesity research. This year’s congress president is Prof. Dr. Annette Schürmann of the German Institute of Human Nutrition Potsdam-Rehbrücke (DIfE). She is project leader in the Competence Network Obesity as well as speaker of the German Center for Diabetes Research (DZD).

The meeting will cover a wide range of topics. The presentations, which will be held predominantly in German, will deal with topics from basic and clinical research as well as from the fields of epidemiology and psychology. In addition, the participants will also discuss health policy issues.

According to current data, more than half of all adults in Germany are overweight (BMI> 25 kg / m²). Of these, 20 to 25% are obese (BMI > 30 kg/m²) – and this tendency is rising. This trend can also be observed in children and adolescents. According to the latest available data (from 2007) of the Robert Koch Institute in Berlin, 15 percent of children and adolescents between 3 and 17 years of age are overweight. About six percent are obese, whereas in the group of 14-to-17-year-olds their percentage has increased to over eight percent.
As obesity in the population increases, so does the number of people with serious obesity complications - primarily cardiovascular diseases, certain cancers such as liver and colon cancer and type 2 diabetes mellitus. There are more than six million people with diabetes in Germany.

Obesity has a genetic basis, but it is mainly due to the unhealthy lifestyle prevalent in today’s society which is characterized by lack of exercise and a high-calorie diet that has little satiating effect.
In order to permanently maintain a reduced body weight, the affected individuals must adhere to a healthy lifestyle during their entire lives. “Short-term weight-loss diets only reduce the body weight for a short time and do more harm than good over the long term. Maintaining weight after successful weight loss is usually only possible with support by the social environment and long-term behavioral-therapeutic monitoring or with the aid of metabolic surgery. The latter, however, is out of the question for children,” said Professor Martin Wabitsch, MD, president of the DAG and medical director of the Hormone Center and the Endocrinological Research Laboratory at the Children’s Hospital of the University Medical Center in Ulm. “Now more than ever, scientists and therapists need to work together across disciplines in order to develop preventive measures and new therapeutic approaches to counteract this growing problem,” Wabitsch went on to say. “Policymakers need to be convinced of the necessity to introduce preventive measures to improve prevailing conditions, as have already been undertaken in many countries with increasing success,” Wabitsch stressed. “We will only be able to contain the obesity epidemic if we have support from the political arena because we are dealing with a complex phenomenon which affects the entire society.”
“To achieve this, it is also important to learn more about the molecular and biochemical relationships between lifestyle, obesity and its sequelae,” Schürmann said. “This would enable researchers to develop new treatment strategies. For instance, if we could answer the question why not every obese person automatically suffers from a metabolic disorder, we could more easily identify individuals who are at risk for developing diabetes. We could thus implement preventive measures in a more targeted way.”

As a recently published study by Schürmann suggests, four genes in obese mice influence the ability of the insulin-producing cells to divide, depending on the carbohydrate intake. Which gene variants the animals have determines whether they will develop diabetes or not. The scientists’ next aim is to elucidate the functions of the identified genes in order to obtain deeper insight into the biochemical mechanisms of diabetes related to obesity and diet. As Schürmann’s research and other human studies show, three of the respective human genes are likewise associated with obesity and insulin resistance, the precursor of diabetes.

Background information
Information about the press conference, which will take place at the venue of the annual meeting in the Urania, Berlin, Loft B on October 15, 2015 from 10:00 – 11:00 am, can be downloaded at: