Obesity: Lessons from Evolution and the Environment
The International Association for the Study of Obesity (IASO) hosted the 9th Stock Conference in Budapest, Hungary from November 10th to 13th.
The aim of the Stock conference was to bring together world leading experts to discuss a focused topic related to obesity. This years meeting focused on the topic of Obesity: Lessons from Evolution and the Environment.
Introduction to the topic
Obesity is a complex mixture of genetic, environmental, psycho-social, cultural and cognitive influences.
We do not fully understand the reasons for the current epidemic of obesity, but it is clear that the etiology is a complex mixture of genetic, environmental, psycho-social, cultural and cognitive influences. From an evolutionary point we still possess the genes of prehistoric man but new research points towards a possibility of changing gene-function without influencing genomic sequences, and thus allowing for changes in susceptibility to obesity within one generation.
Such functional changes may come about as consequences to change in nutrient intake or in response to a changing environment with an increasing exposure to pollutants, pesticides and chemicals. Hence, our current understanding that the obesity epidemic is the simple consequence of disturbances in energy balance is challenged, also by new research showing that differences in energy and nutrient intakes, rather than decreased energy expenditure has fuelled the epidemic.
Furthermore, new etiological players are proposed including vira, changes in the metagenome, or temperature changes. The conference will contribute to the understanding of the etiology of obesity by questioning what we know about the determinants of obesity and whether we should challenge the concept of overindulgence and laziness and acknowledge that the determinants behind obesity are a complex mix of genetic, cultural, environmental and evolutionary factors.
With respect to nutrient intake, the focus is on protein intake that has been more prominent in the past. Regulation of energy intake may be approached as a derivative of regulation of protein intake. Therefore regulation of protein intake will be highlighted from the point of view of protein metabolism, the aminostatic theory, the dispensable amino-acids avoiding theory, and lessons from ecology will be learned.
With respect to energy expenditure, the emphasis will be on doubly labeled water studies allowing comparisons of human energy expenditure with free ranging mammals and changes over time since the start of the current obesity epidemic.
Taken together, the conference focused on genetic, evolutionary and environmental factors of importance for obesity and included lessons from different disciplines and suggestions for where to go from here.