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Study finds biological indicators that help explain why obese people develop chronic diseases

July 17, 2017

Jialal and his collaborators then measured 11 biomarkers for diabetes and cardiovascular disease, as well as counting the number of macrophages in the fat tissue. These macrophages form crown-like structures around fat cells that have outgrown their blood supply and died. The presence of macrophages -- immune system cells that engulf and destroy cellular waste -- indicates the kind of inflammatory response implicated in cardiovascular disease.

Last year, Jialal published a study on these same 65 patients showing that they have both dysfunctional and fewer endothelial progenitor cells (EPCs) than control subjects. These cells eventually form the lining of blood vessels and are used as a measure of cardiovascular health. As in the current study, this abnormality cannot be explained simply by obesity. Jialal's team now is looking at differences in monocytes between the two study groups. The new data suggests intrinsic defects in the critical adipose tissue cells and EPCs that are relevant to increased risk for diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

While metabolic syndrome can be reversed through diet and exercise resulting in weight loss, other kinds of treatment may be needed, Jialal said.

"I have done this for 34 years. It is hard to get people to stick to therapeutic lifestyle changes," he said, adding that researchers need to address the dysfunction of fat cells, using existing or novel drug therapies to block the production of damaging biomarkers.

"Once people have cardiovascular disease or diabetes, it's too late and far more expensive given the complications that ensue. Metabolic syndrome is the antecedent. This is where we need to intervene," said Jialal.

Source: University of California - Davis Health System