“What we’re learning is that even overweight people who are physically active and eating a healthy diet are getting benefits from the lifestyle change,” said principal investigator Christie Ballantyne, M.D., director of Methodist’s Center for Cardiovascular Disease Prevention. “When you exercise and diet, you’re improving the function of your adipose tissue, your heart and vascular systems, and even muscle performance. You’re getting a lot of benefits that you may not see by just looking at the weight on a scale.”
The Center for Cardiovascular Disease Prevention is part of the Methodist DeBakey Heart & Vascular Center.
Ballantyne said that while a causal relationship between adiponectin production and increases in blood HDL cholesterol levels is not yet proven, this latest study supports models putting the fat hormone somewhere in the controlling pathway of liver HDL cholesterol synthesis. Adiponectin’s role in fat burning and sugar storage is well established.
Ballantyne and his team examined patient data from Look AHEAD, a project intended to clarify the relationship between obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Look AHEAD is funded by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). To be eligible for Look AHEAD, participants must have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, and also deemed overweight or obese. Enrollees consent to an “intenstive lifestyle intervention” in which they become more physically active and limit their calorie intake.
Look AHEAD participants have had their blood drawn at regular intervals, with testing for various biomarkers, including HDL cholesterol and the fat hormone adiponectin, in its many forms. Study participants are also weighed and given a fitness (exercise stress) test.
After one year, Look AHEAD participants’ adiposity (a measure of total fat), fitness, blood glucose levels, and fat levels were, on average, significantly improved. Levels of LDL, the so-called “bad cholesterol,” did not change. But Adiponectin levels and HDL cholesterol did. Total adiponectin produced by fat cells increased about 12 percent relative to a control group, in which people received diabetes and obesity education but no intensive lifestyle modification. And HDL cholesterol went up nearly 10 percent.
HDL cholesterol correlates positively with overall cardiovascular health. It is not yet known for sure whether low HDL cholesterol causes cardiovascular problems, or whether both (low HDL and CV problems) are controlled in parallel by another, as-yet-unknown effector.
Ballantyne is also a professor of medicine at The Baylor College of Medicine. Other coauthors of the Journal of Lipid Research paper are Maria Belalcazar, M.D. (Univ. of Texas Medical Branch-Galveston), Wei Lang, Ph.D. (Wake Forest Univ.), Steven Haffner, M.D. (University of Texas HSC-San Antonio), Ron Hoogeveen, Ph.D., and Ashok Balasubramanyam, M.D. (Baylor College of Medicine), Xavier Pi-Sunyer, M.D. (Columbia Univ.), Dawn Schwenke, Ph.D. (Arizona State Univ.), Russell Tracy, Ph.D. (Univ. of Vermont), Andrea Kriska, Ph.D. (Univ. of Pittsburgh), and members of the Look AHEAD Research Group, a National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases project. The research was supported by the NIDDK, and with grants from additional NIH sources.
To speak with Ballantyne, please contact David Bricker, The Methodist Hospital System, at 832-627-2639.