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Obesity, diabetes and longevity in the Gulf: is there a Gulf Metabolic Syndrome?

Guy, G. W., Nunn, A. V.W., Thomas, L. E. and Bell, J. D. (2009) Obesity, diabetes and longevity in the Gulf: is there a Gulf Metabolic Syndrome? International Journal of Diabetes Mellitus, 1 (1). pp. 43-54. ISSN 1877-5934

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1016/j.ijdm.2009.05.001


The Gulf is experiencing a pandemic of lifestyle-induced obesity and type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM), with rates exceeding 50 and 30%, respectively. It is likely that T2DM represents the tip of a very large metabolic syndrome iceberg, which precedes T2DM by many years and is associated with abnormal/ectopic fat distribution, pathological systemic oxidative stress and inflammation. However, the definitions are still evolving with the role of different fat depots being critical. Hormetic stimuli, which include exercise, calorie restriction, temperature extremes, dehydration and even some dietary components (such as plant polyphenols), may well modulate fat deposition. All induce physiological levels of oxidative stress, which results in mitochondrial biogenesis and increased anti-oxidant capacity, improving metabolic flexibility and the ability to deal with lipids. We propose that the Gulf Metabolic Syndrome results from an unusually rapid loss of hormetic stimuli within an epigenetically important time frame of 2-3 generations. Epigenetics indicates that thriftiness can be programmed by the environment and passed down through several generations. Thus this loss of hormesis can result in continuation of metabolic inflexibility, with mothers exposing the foetus to a milieu that perpetuates a stressed epigenotype. As the metabolic syndrome increases oxidative stress and reduces life expectancy, a better descriptor may therefore be the Lifestyle-Induced Metabolic Inflexibility and accelerated AGEing syndrome – LIMIT-AGE. As life expectancy in the Gulf begins to fall, with perhaps a third of this life being unhealthy – including premature loss of sexual function, it is vital to detect evidence of this condition as early in life as possible. One effective way to do this is by detecting evidence of metabolic inflexibility by studying body fat content and distribution by magnetic resonance (MR). The Gulf Metabolic Syndrome thus represents an accelerated form of the metabolic syndrome induced by the unprecedented rapidity of lifestyle change in the region, the stress of which is being passed from generation to generation and may be accumulative. The fundamental cause is probably due to a rapid increase in countrywide wealth. This has benefited most socioeconomic groups, resulting in the development of an obesogenic environment as the result of the rapid adoption of Western labour saving and stress relieving devices (e.g. cars and air conditioning), as well as the associated high calorie diet.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:No Reading authors. Back catalogue items
ID Code:35380
Additional Information:Guy & Nunn are Equal first author


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