Some people are obese but healthy and a new study has found that a low level of the protein H0-1 is linked to maintaining health even though overweight. Some people who are overweight are more prone to developing diabetes and cardiovascular disorders. However, some people are overweight but do not develop these unhealthy conditions. The study results showed that when people have a low level of H0-1 protein, they are protected from insulin resistance and inflammation, which are the factors that are associated with the development of diseases. Measuring H0-1 levels can therefore indicate who will be likely to develop diabetes and other problems versus who will not.
This study on the molecular basis for maintaining health even though obese was published in the journal Cell. The study was carried out at the Medical University of Vienna in Austria and the lead researcher was Dr. Harald Esterbauer. The study included a human component and 51 obese patients and 6 non-obese controls participated in the study. The study also included experiments with a mouse model. In the mouse study, “knock-out” mice that had the H0-1 protein gene deleted were studied in comparison with mice that had normal versions of the H0-1 gene.
Previous studies have shown that one in four people who are labeled as obese are metabolically healthy, meaning they have normal values regarding insulin resistance and inflammation. Chronic inflammation has been associated with health problems and a new term; i.e., metaflammation, has been proposed to cover this long-term state of inflammation that leads to ill-health. It has been suggested that metaflammation is a central feature of insulin resistance.
Inflammation is increasingly being shown to be an important factor in the development of disease. For example, the pancreas produces insulin in response to glucose intake. When the islet cells in the pancreas, which produce insulin, are subjected to a very high level of nutrients, they become inflamed and some cells even die. The dysfunction or death of pancreatic islet cells then results in Type 2 diabetes. Reducing or preventing this inflammation could help with the prevention of diabetes. If high levels of the H0-1 protein are a component of the development of this type of inflammation, and low levels of the H0-1 protein protect against this type of inflammation, then targeting H0-1 protein may help to prevent diseases that are caused by chronic inflammation.
The results of the newly reported study showed that H0-1 is pro-inflammatory and potently and independently drives insulin resistance in hepatic (liver) and macrophage (immune system) areas. H0-1 was a top predictor of metabolic disease in the human portion of the study and in the mouse model used in the study and was in fact shown to be necessary for the development of metaflammation.
The results from this study may have a significant impact on how to handle obese people medically. Learning that the obese but healthy population has a low level of the H0-1 protein may have high predictive value. Those with low levels of the H0-1 protein would be expected to live healthy lives while those with higher levels of the H0-1 protein would be expected to eventually suffer from metabolic disease including insulin resistance and metaflammation, which could lead to the development of major chronic diseases. Showing that being obese but healthy is dependent on the level of H0-1 protein is a major finding in the study of obesity.
By Margaret Lutze