Why do some people with obesity respond better to treatment than others? Why is it that some people with obesity develop diseases whereas others do not? By understanding how our bodies are changed by obesity, these are the questions that our team at MON Lab seeks to answer. Why? At rates of over 60% according to Statistics Canada, more Canadians are overweight than not. Moreover, almost one in four Canadians have obesity. People are overweight when their body mass index (BMI, weight divided by height squared) reaches 25 or more. They have obesity when their BMI exceeds 30. One in four adults and one in 10 children in Canada are now living with obesity—roughly 6 million Canadians. Obesity is a serious public health problem. It is linked to the development of chronic diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease, and mortality.
People with obesity have an average lifespan that is 7 years shorter than those without. Unfortunately, science has yet to explain why symptoms of chronic disease vary from one person with obesity to another. This is what our team is working to do: study the underlying effects of obesity in order to improve obesity treatment options.
Obesity treatment remains ineffective.
Most people who lose weight eventually gain it back. There are a number of treatments for obesity including various diets, exercises, pills, and weight loss (bariatric) surgery (in the case of morbid obesity). Even after surgery, lost body weight can be regained. Why is lost body fat regained so easily? The widespread belief is that the amount of fat in your body is only determined by what you eat and how much you move. But the reality is that obesity is a complex illness caused by numerous factors. Even with the same diet or amount of exercise, people vary widely in the amount of body fat or weight at which their body settles. The metabolic and cellular mechanisms behind why some overweight individuals develop disease, while others do not, are not fully understood. Furthermore, in people with cardiovascular disease and diabetes, we do not fully understand how obesity affects disease progression and treatment.
Studying the underlying effects of obesity to improve treatments
At MON Lab we combine unique biological, physiological and nutritional techniques to investigate and understand the underlying effects of obesity that contribute to weight gain and disease. When it comes to treatment and disease prevention, what works for one person might not work for another. We want to know what makes an individual with obesity different from another. Our focus is in linking how molecules and cells in the blood and tissue interact with the whole body to contribute to the variations in outcomes of treatment and chronic disease prevention. In doing so, we will be able to use this knowledge to improve treatment of obesity and its related diseases.
The results from our studies will promote the development of better public health interventions from disease prevention to management. Our main goals are to determine what makes adult obesity different and how we can account for these differences to focus on the best treatments. We want to give people afflicted with obesity a chance to maintain and regain a healthy state.