Reducing Health Risks Linked To Obesity
First Published: Investigator - July 2006
Reducing the risk of heart attacks and other obesity related illnesses is of prime concern for a group of researchers at Flinders Medical Centre.
Prof Campbell Thompson and Dr Arduino Mangoni are attempting to understand the changes that take place within blood vessels during and after the weight loss that is associated with gastric banding surgery.
Gastric banding is a non-invasive surgery where an inflatable silicone band is implanted into the patient’s abdomen and fastened around the upper stomach. This limits the amount of food the patient can eat and creates a sense of fullness earlier, thereby encouraging weight loss.
Investigators have found that when weight is lost other health issues such as diabetes, high blood pressure, sleep apnoea and the risk of heart attack or disease is reduced. It is believed that this is linked to the reduction of “bad” visceral fat within the body which sits around the abdomen and intestinal areas and appears to be the main cause of other weight related health problems. Subcutaneous fat, which sits around the thighs and buttocks, is considered harmless.
Rapid weight loss on the other hand seems to cause harmful compounds, also known as fatty acids, to be released from the visceral fat into the circulation. The Flinders team are focusing on the effects that these compounds have on blood vessels. Fatty acids appear to cause blood vessels to become stiffer and lose their ability to modulate the flow of blood and oxygen through the body at an optimal level. This can potentially lead to many health problems such as high blood pressure and an increased risk of heart attacks.
The study aims at producing important information that will contribute to the treatment of obesity, particularly gastric banding surgery.
Currently within Australia over two thirds of adults and one third of children fall within the overweight/obese body mass index (BMI) brackets. BMI is a calculation of height in relation to weight to determine whether the subject is in a suitable weight zone for their height.
Those with a BMI of over 30 with another complication such as diabetes or anyone with a BMI of over 35 are eligible for gastric banding surgery.
“As obesity continues to rise worldwide, this information is of critical importance to create awareness and promote healthier lifestyles for those with an inclination to obesity,” says Professor Thompson.