Obesity is a rapidly growing health crisis in the U.S. and around the world. Obesity is associated with a decreased lifespan and an increased risk of serious diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and some cancers. A new special report published in the Journal of the American Heart Association has explored causes, consequences, and promising new therapies related to the obesity epidemic.
The special report explored the findings of the Strategically Focused Research Network (SFRN) on Obesity, a group funded by the American Heart Association to study obesity and its relationship with disorders such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease. The CDC reports that the prevalence of obesity in the United States was 42.4% in 2018, and that number is expected to rise both in the U.S. and globally in the coming decade.
The SFRN, like previous research groups, found that obesity is a complex disease that impacts health throughout the human lifespan. Causes of obesity are multifaceted and can include lifestyle factors, social determinants of health, circadian rhythms, general energy balance, genetics, epigenetics, the in-utero environment, and more. These factors can contribute to adiposity, inflammation, insulin resistance, changes to satiety hormones, and other issues.
One promising drug target explored in the study was the glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor (GLP-1R), which has been shown to protect the heart and which may be useful in treating both diabetes and obesity; current GLP-1 agonists on the market include liraglutide and semaglutide. The results showed that changes in GLP-1R signals and communications seems to improve how cells respond to stress. Furthermore, GLP-1R activation appears to improve markers of cardiovascular disease risk, and clinical studies have shown efficacy in the treatment of obesity and diabetes. While further research is needed, this study advanced our understanding of the relationship between obesity and cardiovascular disease and helped explore potential therapies for combatting these diseases.