Understanding Obesity in the 21st Century
Why that 'magic pill' is so hard to find
Obesity is now a major problem in the developed Western world. With the 'eat on the run' lifestyle chosen by some people and others preferring 'convenience foods', people are choosing to eat calorie packed easy meals. There has been a trend towards obesity over the last 20 years but little has been done to counteract this until now. With the realisation that obesity is reaching epidemic proportions, the government and public health bodies are finally acting. Supermarkets are encouraged to clearly display calorie, salt and fat content of their foods and children are being encouraged to eat healthily and exercise more. It is becoming evident that obesity is not just a problem of the Western world as developing countries, as they advance, encounter many of the problems suffered by industrialised countries, including obesity.
Everyone as an individual will respond differently to exercise, diets and what foods they consume. The body is an incredibly complex and intricate machine that is unique to every individual, after all we are genetically different. Some people may be programmed genetically to store excess fat rather than use it. This is an example of the 'Thrifty Gene Hypothesis', where a gene will give a nutritional advantage during times of poor nutrition and little food, enabling the body to store excess fat for times of hardship. In this day and age however, times of hardship are over for many people and so the ability to store excess fat has now become detrimental.
The aim of this website is to explore how our understanding of appetite regulation and obesity has developed and how we have come to understand the complex mechanisms that relay information regarding the body's nutritional status. For example, the fat cell is no longer thought of as a lowly fat storage molecule but is a regulator of appetite in itself. Obviously the perfect scenario to end obesity would be that elusive 'magic pill', but the search for an effective anti-obesity drug is still very much active. Past drugs have proved unsatisfactory due to side effects affecting other physiological systems, emphasising the extensive interactions between the various pathways that control appetite. In 2006, however, the anti-obesity drug Acomplia was made available for prescription which proved highly successful in clinical trials. Perhaps the difficulty in identifying an anti-obesity drug stems from the neural complexity of the brain and the incomplete knowledge that we currently have regarding how the various neural circuits and signalling molecules interact. For example another recently identified property of the adiposity signal leptin is its ability to re-wire neuronal projections in the hypothalamic arcuate nucleus.
To begin our discussion please click the link below to obtain an overview of what obesity is and why being obese is unhealthy. Throughout this website please follow the links at the bottom of the page which will lead you through the site.
What is obesity and why is it bad?