Obesity is a major risk factor for many chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, respiratory diseases and musculoskeletal diseases. Despite significant advances in understanding the molecular pathology and genetics of obesity, it has been challenging to translate learnings from multi-omic data into precision treatments to help patients with obesity. This session addresses several of the main questions regarding translation of omics data into effective obesity treatments.
DNA-based Weight Loss Interventions: What Have We Learned?
It is widely recognized that genetic factors play a role in individual responses to different dietary factors. Several studies have examined whether weight loss diets varying in macronutrient composition (e.g. low fat, low carbohydrate or high protein diets) have differential effects on weight loss success depending on the genetic status of the individual, but many experts still consider the approach preliminary. On the other hand, clinicians currently do not have solid scientific reasons for choosing one weight loss diet over another and precision medicine approaches are desperately needed. This panel will discuss the outcomes from both.
Chris Gardner, Stanford U School of Medicine
George Bray, Pennington Biomedical Research Center
Jeanne McCaffery, University of Connecticut
Gut Microbiome and Obesity
The gut microbiome is increasing recognized as a key contributor to both obesity development and response to obesity treatments. However, while correlational and basic science research abounds, there is relatively little clear clinical application to date. In this session, experts will discuss evidence related to how various interventions that impact the gut microbiome (e.g. probiotics/prebiotics and antibiotics) effect obesity as well as how metabolomics markers in blood relate to gut microbiome function in both healthy individuals and those with obesity.
Elena Barengolts, University of Illinois
Noa Rappaport, ISB
Noel Mueller, Johns Hopkins
Epigenetics and Obesity
The Developmental Origins of Health and Disease (DOHD) hypothesis speaks to the role that critical periods during growth and development have on adult expression of chronic diseases such as obesity and cardiometabolic disease. Research has shown that epigenetic factors, often related to environmental and dietary factors during pregnancy, play a key role in later risk. This session will provide an overview of the DOHD hypothesis and our understanding of epigenetic factors in obesity, with an emphasis on how this knowledge might lead to better obesity treatments or obesity prevention.
Deborah Sloboda, McMaster University
Vidhu Thaker, Columbia University
Dr. Jennifer Lovejoy spent 12 years on the faculty of the Pennington Biomedical Research Center at LSU where she held the Manship Endowed Professorship in Diabetes and founded and directed the Women’s Nutrition Research Program. In 2003, Dr. Lovejoy became Dean of the School of Nutrition and Exercise Science at Bastyr University in Seattle, a private university offering graduate and undergraduate degrees in natural medicine. In 2008, she became Vice President of Clinical and Quality Support at Free and Clear, Inc, a company offering tobacco and weight management coaching services to employers, health plans and state governments. Currently, she is Chief Translational Science Officer at a startup company affiliated with the Institute for Systems Biology in Seattle, offering a “scientific wellness” service to employers and consumers. She holds an adjunct faculty appointment at the University of Washington School of Public Health and is a frequent speaker on obesity and nutrition at national and international conferences. She was the 2010-2011 President of The Obesity Society of North America and past Regional Vice President for the International Association for the Study of Obesity.
For 27 years Christopher Gardner has studied what to consume and to avoid for optimal health, and how best to motivate individuals to achieve healthy dietary behaviors. Some of the dozens of human nutrition intervention trials he has conducted include studies of garlic, omega-3 fats, soy phytoestrogens and antioxidants. Among his most cited studies are the A TO Z (JAMA 2007) and the DIETFITS (JAMA 2018) weight loss diet trials. The DIETFITS trial examined the possibility that a 3-SNP multilocus genotype would predict differential weight loss success on a Healthy-Low-Fat vs. a Healthy-Low-Carb diet among more than 600 overweight and obese adults. His interests in this area of personalized nutrition continue with his participation in the Trans-NIH Consortium: Randomized Controlled Trials of Lifestyle Weight Loss Interventions for Genome-wide Association Studies. He is also working on personalized nutrition explorations with other investigators.
Dr. Bray is now a Boyd (University) Professor at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center of Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Professor of Medicine at the Louisiana State University Medical Center in New Orleans. He is Principal Investigator for the Diabetes Prevention Program Outcomes Study and the Look AHEAD study, 2 multi-center NIH-funded clinical trials. He is a Master in the American College of Physicians and a Master of the American College of Endocrinology. He is a member of numerous professional societies including The Obesity Society, The Endocrine Society, the American Diabetes Association, the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists, the American Physiological Society. In 1982 he founded the North American Association for the Study of Obesity (NAASO now The Obesity Society), and he was the founding editor of Obesity Research, as well as co-founder of the International Journal of Obesity and the founding editor of Endocrine Practice.
Dr. Barengolts research and active clinical practice allows investigating as well as evaluating in “real world” efficacy and safety of innovative therapeutics for type 2 diabetes (T2D) and other chronic disease. Dr. Barengolts was one of the pioneers for studying gut microbiota role in T2D and obesity, vitamin D supplementation for T2D, and showing association between atherosclerosis and osteoporosis. In research, strategy of clinical trials allows her team directly measuring clinically relevant outcomes and exploring mechanisms of these outcomes. Clinical trial of vitamin D supplementation failed to prevent T2D in African American men; however, vitamin D was associated with beneficial changes in gut microbiota. In endocrinology clinic, Dr. Barengolts uses achievements of precision medicine to adjust available resources to individualized patient’s needs, and among her approaches diet and supplements play specific role. Dr. Barengolts received M.D. from Moscow Medical Academy and completed Endocrinology Fellowship at University of Illinois at Chicago.
Noa Rappaport focuses her research on multi-omic analysis of deeply phenotyped cohorts within the Hood/Price lab at ISB. Noa led the development of MalaCards – an integrated database of human diseases and was on the development team of multiple other GeneCards suit of databases at the Weizmann Institute of Science. Noa’s main interest is using systems biology techniques to study the emergent properties in complex biological systems, as well as how the physiological interaction network can be controlled by cellular context in a way that can be utilized for medical applications. Noa received her Bachelor’s degree in Biology under the Technion Excellence Program in Israel. Her MSc was completed in the Barkai lab at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, focusing on mathematical models of biological timers and robust gradient detection in yeast. Her PhD at the Barkai lab was focused on studying the evolution of anti-fungal drug resistance. Her post-doc work took place at the lab of Prof. Doron Lancet at the Weizmann Institute of science.
Studying Inter-omic Relationships Through Deeply Phenotyped Cohorts
Noel Mueller is interested in the prevention of obesity, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease from the perspectives of life course, nutritional and microbiome epidemiology. He believes that primordial prevention of lifestyle and environmental risk factors, particularly in high-risk and nutritionally transitioning populations, provides the greatest opportunity to curb the epidemics of metabolic and cardiovascular diseases. As such, his research aims to identify early-life, modifiable antecedents of cardiometabolic disease in diverse populations locally and globally. Most recently his research has focused on understanding the determinants of gut microbiota and how they can be leveraged to prevent metabolic diseases. His research effort is partitioned among the Department of Epidemiology at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health; the Welch Center for Prevention, Epidemiology and Clinical Research; and the Johns Hopkins Food, Body and Mind Institute.
Dr Sloboda joined the Department of Biochemistry and Biomedical Sciences at McMaster University in 2012 as an Associate Professor. She is an Associate member to the Depts of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Pediatrics. Dr Sloboda continues to be an Honorary Research Fellow Appointment at the Liggins Institute in New Zealand, where she maintains collaborations. Dr Sloboda holds a Tier 2 Canada Research Chair in Perinatal Programming. She was recently awarded the International Society of Developmental Origins of Health and Disease Nick Hales Award for outstanding research contribution to developmental programming, and in 2017 won the Hamilton YWCA Woman of Distinction Award in Science Trade, and Technology. Dr Sloboda is the founding co-President of the DOHaD Society of Canada, and has been the Secretary of the International Society for the Developmental Origins of Health and Disease since 2013. She is an Associate Editor for the Journal of Developmental Origins of Health and Disease. She has published >90 scientific papers in leading scientific journals and contributed to 13 books on the concept of early life origins of health and disease.
Dr. Jeanne McCaffery has been at the forefront of examining genetic predictors of magnitude of weight loss and change in cardiovascular disease risk with lifestyle interventions focused on weight loss and physical activity. She is the Chairperson of the Trans-NIH working group on the genetics of behavioral weight loss, and has published numerous papers working with Look AHEAD and the Diabetes Prevention Program, two of the largest randomized, controlled trials of lifestyle intervention for weight loss. She has further published on genetic predictors of caloric and macronutrient intake. Dr. McCaffery earned her PhD in Clinical and Health Psychology and has pursued training in genetic epidemiology.
Dr. Thaker is a Pediatric Endocrinologist with research focus on genetic underpinnings of obesity. She provides clinical care for children with growth disorders, thyroid abnormalities, adrenal disorders, puberty related issues and genetic endocrine disorders at the Columbia Westside Pediatrics location. Her laboratory is located in the Russ Berrie Medical Sciences Pavillion. She resides in Westchester county and enjoys traveling, reading books and hiking with her children and husband.