Obesity is a worldwide epidemic, raising serious concerns about health status and health care in the coming years. Obesity is defined as having excess body fat and is often due to poor dietary choices and/or lack of exercise.
The World Health Organization estimates that by the year 2015, “approximately 2.3 billion adults will be overweight and more than 700 million adults will be obese” (1). These are staggering figures that will be accompanied by an increase in co-morbidities such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer. In October 2010, the United States Centers for Disease Control (CDC) published their projections regarding the future burden of diabetes. In this report, they conclude that by 2050, as many as 1 in 3 Americans could have diabetes. (2) All of these problems are further compounded by enormous health care costs.
The prevalence of obesity is rising across the globe, even in developing countries where food insecurity has been a long-standing, widespread problem. Obesity-related research has led to a much better understanding of adipose tissue in normal and obese states. Furthermore, scientists have begun to piece together information about genetic and epigenetic factors affecting bodyweight and metabolic status.
Metabolic disturbances have become quite common with the increased prevalence of unhealthy lifestyle choices. While the traditional definition of “obesity” involves a condition that can be seen visually, the metabolically obese, normal weight individual appears thin or of “normal weight” but has medical conditions (e.g., insulin resistance and hyperinsulinemia) that are traditionally seen in those with excess body fat (3).
Efforts to decrease weight and enhance the health of populations around the world are critical to improving quality of life and decreasing health care costs (attributed to obesity) that are already at astonishing levels. Research at the molecular, pre-clinical and clinical levels is an important part of ensuring these efforts are successful.