Poor diet harms blood vessels

 (Image: Pixabay CC0) (Image: Pixabay CC0)

Over the last few decades, the number of obesity sufferers has continued to increase and is now one of the leading causes of death worldwide - 650 million adults are classified as obese. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines obesity as the accumulation of excess fat in the body, which poses risks to healthy living. The main causes: changing eating habits and lifestyles. But how do poor eating habits affect our blood vessels? A team of researchers led by Bilal Sheikh from the Helmholtz Institute for Metabolic, Obesity and Vascular Research (HI-MAG) at Helmholtz Munich and the Medical Faculty of the University of Leipzig has investigated how obesity affects the molecular structure of blood vessels.

The research team found that metabolic diseases affect blood vessels in different organs of our body in unique ways: for example, blood vessels in the liver and adipose tissue have difficulty processing excess fats, kidney vessels develop metabolic dysfunction, lung vessels become highly inflamed, and transport in brain vessels is impaired. -Because blood vessel dysfunction drives all major pathologies-from heart failure to atherosclerosis to neurodegeneration-our research shows how poor eating habits promote the development of various diseases at the molecular level,- explains Olga Bondereva, the lead author of this study.

-We want to elucidate the molecular mechanisms of obesity in order to be able to offer patients tailored therapies in the future," adds HI-MAG Director Matthias Blüher. The spokesman for Collaborative Research Center 1052 -ObesityMechanisms- has been conducting research on morbid obesity at the University of Leipzig for years. Scientists from Leipzig’s cardiology and laboratory medicine departments are also involved in the present study.

The researchers:then wondered whether a healthy diet could reduce the disease-causing molecular signatures induced by a poor diet. Their results show: A healthy diet can indeed improve the molecular health of blood vessels, but only partially. In the experiments, for example, blood vessels in the liver recovered almost completely, but blood vessels in the kidneys retained the disease signature, despite a healthy diet and significant weight loss. In summary, this means: Some of our blood vessels can develop a -memory- for metabolic disease that is difficult to reverse.

Obesity research in Leipzig

Investigating the mechanisms of the development and treatment of obesity has been a focus of university research in Leipzig for many years. There is a diverse research landscape dedicated to the prevention and treatment of the disease. Obesity research topics in Leipzig include genetic associations, metabolic disorders, mechanisms of fat accumulation, the role of the brain in eating, and therapeutic interventions for weight loss and maintenance.

The Helmholtz Institute for Metabolism, Obesity and Vascular Research (HI-MAG) is a joint institution of Helmholtz Munich with the Medical Faculty of the University of Leipzig and Leipzig University Hospital. The institute investigates the molecular basis of morbid obesity in order to enable precise therapies for obesity and its secondary diseases with the help of a clinical-translational research approach.

Original publication in Nature Metabolism

"Single-cell profiling of vascular endothelial cells reveals progressive organ-specific vulnerabilities during obesity" Bondareva et al. DOI 10.1038/s42255’022 -00674-x
Contact: Dr. Bilal Sheikh, bilal.sheikh(at)helmholtz-muenchen.de