How Changes in Body Weight Affect the Human Metabolism

The proportion of overweight people is steadily rising in Germany, leading to an increase in the number of patients later diagnosed with cardiovascular diseases, dyslipidemia or diabetes. In a just-published study in the journal BMC Medicine, DZD scientists report on the long-term effects of changes in body weight on the metabolism.

Until now there have been few molecular epidemiological studies regarding the effects of weight changes on metabolism in the general population. In a recent study conducted and funded within the framework of the Competence Network Obesity, researchers at the Institute of Epidemiology II at Helmholtz Zentrum München (HMGU) evaluated molecular data of the KORA study*. “Techniques such as metabolomics and transcriptomics allow the simultaneous determination of a variety of low molecular weight metabolites or gene activities (transcripts of genes) using high-throughput methods,” said Simone Wahl and Susanne Vogt, doctoral students at the Institute of Epidemiology II of HMGU. They found that various metabolic pathways are associated with changes in weight. These include the metabolism of lipoproteins such as VLDL (very low density lipoprotein), LDL (low density lipoprotein) and HDL (high density lipoprotein). Furthermore, the association of a group of gene transcripts with weight change suggests that weight change also has an effect on red blood cell development

Innovative approach provides new insights
“Through our experimental approach, which involves both metabolomics and transcriptomics data, we have gained insights into the molecular mechanisms that are affected by weight gain,” said Dr. Barbara Thorand, who heads the research group “Diabetes Epidemiology” at the Institute of Epidemiology II. Thus, the researchers were able to establish associations between weight gain and changes in lipid and amino acid metabolism, insulin sensitivity, mitochondrial functioning and the development and function of blood cells at the molecular level. “The chosen evaluation strategy is a promising approach to better elucidate the relevant molecular relationships and to understand how weight changes affect metabolism and contribute to the development of certain diseases,” added Dr. Harald Grallert, head of the research group “Diabetes and Related Traits” of the Department of Molecular Epidemiology (AME) at the Institute of Epidemiology II.

Further information

Original publication: Wahl, S. et al. (2015). Multi-omic signature of body weight change: results from a population-based cohort study. BMC Medicine 2015, doi:10.1186/s12916-015-0282-y

Link to publication

*For more than 20 years the Cooperative Health Research in the Region of Augsburg  (KORA) has been examining the health of thousands of citizens in Augsburg and environs. The aim of the project is to increase understanding of the impact of environmental factors, behaviour and genes on human health. The KORA studies focus on matters relating to the development and progression of chronic diseases, in particular myocardial infarction and diabetes mellitus. To that end, research is conducted into risk factors arising from lifestyle factors (including smoking, diet and exercise), environmental factors (including air pollution and noise) and genetics. Questions relating to the use and cost of health services are examined from the point of view of health services research.