Weight Fluctuations May Impact Long-Term Health

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That 10 Pounds You Gain While Sheltering in Place May Be a Risk, Even if You Lose it When We Return to Normal
Released: Tuesday, April 07, 2020

Ursula White

Dr. Ursula White

Lots of people give themselves permission to gain a few pounds during a stressful time such as COVID-19 sheltering in place.  Because they know they will take it off when the new “normal” returns.

But allowing your weight to fluctuate, even temporarily, may negatively impact your health long term.

A new federally funded study at LSU’s Pennington Biomedical Research Center will delve into the metabolic consequences of short-term weight gain.

The idea is to understand and better inform an individual about what happens to their body during changes in weight,” said Ursula White, PhD, Assistant Professor and primary investigator for the study. “We’ll be looking at how changes in the fat tissue during weight gain can influence health outcomes in the future.”

Putting on 10 pounds during a stressful time, even if a person sheds the weight quickly, can have unintended consequences. 

“You’ve potentially changed your physiology in a way that you don’t understand,” Dr. White said.  “You may have made your body less sensitive to insulin or increased your risk of heart disease.”

The study is expected to further our understanding of the impact of weight gain on fat tissue.

Although most people look at fat as just an energy reservoir – the place where excess calories are stored – fat has a lot of other functions, Dr. White said.  Fat affects a person’s entire metabolism and influences everything from appetite and immune systems to blood clotting and hormone levels.

There have been some studies about what happens when a person gains weight, Dr. White said.  But no one has studied what happens to the functions of fat, aside from the changes in mass.

“That’s the focus of this study,” she said.

The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases of the National Institutes of the Health is funding the five-year study.  Dr. White expects participant recruitment will begin this year.



About LSU's Pennington Biomedical Research Center

LSU's Pennington Biomedical Research Center is at the forefront of medical discovery as it relates to understanding the triggers of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer and dementia. The center conducts basic, clinical and population research, and is affiliated with Louisiana State University. The research enterprise at Pennington Biomedical includes over 450 employees within a network of 40 clinics and research laboratories, and 13 highly specialized core service facilities. Its scientists and physician/scientists are supported by research trainees, lab technicians, nurses, dietitians and other support personnel. Pennington Biomedical is located in state-of-the-art research facilities on a 222-acre campus in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.