Posted on Mar 04, 2020, 12 p.m.
It appears as if the effects of aging and obesity share a list of health issues ranging from cognitive decline to DNA damage, and the Concordia researchers suggest that obesity should be considered premature aging according to a study published in the journal Obesity Reviews.
There are an estimated 1.9 billion adults and 380 million children who are either overweight or obese around the globe, and more people are dying from being overweight than being underweight, according to data from W.H.O. Researchers are advising health authorities to rethink their approaches to obesity, this study examining how obesity predisposes people to acquiring potentially life altering or life threatening diseases that would normally be seen in older individuals adds weight to their cause.
"We are trying to comprehensively make the argument that obesity parallels aging," explains Professor Sylvia Santosa, a Tier II Canada Research Chair in Clinical Nutrition. "Indeed, the mechanisms by which the comorbidities of obesity and aging develop are very similar."
Over 200 papers investigating the effects of obesity ranging from at the cellular level to tissues and the entire body in different perspectives were analysed in this study. Obesity has previously been linked to premature death, but this study notes that even the lowest levels of obesity in the body is a factor that directly accelerates the mechanisms of aging. This study highlights that the effects of obesity on cognitive decline, mobility, hypertension and stress are all very similar to those of aging.
At a cellular level obesity induced apoptosis, for instance, has been examined in animal studies seen in mice hearts, livers, kidneys, neurons, inner ears and retinas; additionally obesity inhibits autophagy which can lead to type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease.
At a genetic level obesity influences a variety of alterations that are associated with aging such as telomere shortening for example, telomeres in those with obesity can be over 25% shorter than those without.
Obesity plays a significant role in how the body fights age related disease by speeding by the immune system targeting different immune cells, and later weight reduction won’t always reverse the process. The effects on the immune system will affect susceptibility to diseases such as influenza and increases the risk of sarcopenia. Those that are obese are also more susceptible to diseases closely associated with later life onset such as Alzheimer’s disease, type 2 diabetes, various forms of cancer, and sarcopenia. To add extra weight to their suggestion children with obesity often develop adult onset conditions of diseases such as type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, and hypertension which really drives the point of the comorbidities of obesity being very similar to that of aging.
"I ask people to list as many comorbidities of obesity as they can," Santosa says. "Then I ask how many of those comorbidities are associated with aging. Most people will say, all of them. There is certainly something that is happening in obesity that is accelerating our aging process. I'm hoping that these observations will focus our approach to understanding obesity a little more, and at the same time allow us to think of obesity in different ways. We're asking different types of questions than that which have traditionally been asked."
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