Here are the biomarkers that give away those suffering from ‘normal weight obesity’
You look at yourself in the mirror. Your ribs are plainly visible, your clavicle sticks out so much you could win first place in one of those absurd online challenges. You’re definitely skinny.
When you were little, your grandmother stuffed you with cake and ice cream, but you’re still as thin as a snake. Now you eat hamburgers three times a week, and wolf down XL pizzas while your co-workers suffer their way through salads and noodles. Convenience food is one of the staples of your diet, but your friends look on in envy as your body stays whippet thin.
But deep down, you suspect that you’re not quite as healthy as all that. Skinniness is not necessarily a synonym of healthiness.
So, you go to visit the doctor, whose diagnosis takes you aback: your physical condition is closer to that of someone with morbid obesity than to that of a healthy person.
If the above situation sounds familiar to you, perhaps you belong to a group known as ‘fake skinny’. These are people who, despite being of normal weight for their height, display symptoms related to obesity such as visceral fat deposition, risk of cardiovascular disease and a greater probability of suffering from type 2 diabetes mellitus.
This condition is caused by an unbalanced diet – rich in fats and simple sugars – combined with limited physical activity. Although an estimated 20% of the population suffer from normal weight obesity (NWO), the condition is very difficult to diagnose. That’s because the individual shows no obvious signs of being overweight, and the tests produce seemingly correct results.
To solve this problem, researchers from the Department of Nutrigenomics and Obesity Department of the University of the Balearic Islands have spent several years working hard to find biomarkers that can be used to detect risk of NWO.
‘It’s believed that 20% of the world population could be what is known as fake skinny’
But what exactly is fake skinny?
Scientists, led by Andreu Palou and Paula Oliver, have discovered that the fake skinny phenotype is associated with fatty liver but without an increase in cholesterol or triglycerides in the blood. This is very dangerous, since abnormal fat in the liver often leads to liver and metabolic diseases.
The study, carried out with rodents, has found that an unbalanced, fat-rich diet increases the amount of protein in the livers of those mice with the fake skinny phenotype. This protein, KRT23, has been described as a marker of liver disease in humans.
Researchers have also used gene expression analysis to analyse the peripheral blood mononuclear cells to monitor health deviations in animals with NWO. The increase of the CPT1A gene in these blood cells can predict problems such as insulin resistance or fatty liver.
Although it has yet to be tested on humans, scientists soon hope to use these techniques to diagnose normal weight obesity more easily in individuals with flat tummies and prominent rib cages. Your health may be at stake. And maybe some other body stereotypes too.
[Vía Agencia SINC]