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Approved research

Lean tissues as determinants of body shape and cardiometabolic health

Principal Investigator: Dr Kalypso Karastergiou
Approved Research ID: 54944
Approval date: May 7th 2020

Lay summary

Obesity is a major problem in many countries, because it increases the risk for heart disease, diabetes, cancer and others. However, some obese people remain healthy for long periods of time. If we understand how other factors increase or decrease the obesity risks, doctors will be able to prioritize treatments or researchers may be able to develop new ways to reduce these risks in all of us. We know for a long time, that people with pear-body shape (bigger thighs and buttocks) are relatively protected in comparison to those with apple-body shape (big belly). For this reason, we and other researchers have studied in detail the fat tissue from the thighs and from the belly. Using data from the USA general population, we noticed for the first time, that not only fat, but other lean tissues may differ between pear- and apple-shape people. We plan to use data from the UK biobank which covers a larger population and uses a more accurate technique (MRI) to measure in detail the size of leg muscles and belly organs like liver and kidney. We will then compare them between pear- and apple-shape people. We expect to find that pear-shape people have larger leg muscles and smaller belly organs. Future studies can then explore if these organs also work differently in pear-shape compared to apple-shaped people. We believe that these findings may explain why pear-shape people are protected from many diseases. Later on, this information may help other researchers to discover ways to change how tissues develop and work in apple-shape people and thus protect them from the risk of developing many serious diseases when they gain weight.