Researchers at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) have discovered that obesity accelerates ageing of the liver.
Using an epigenetic clock (an “age predictor” of most human tissues and organs), the study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggests that carrying excessive weight can be detrimental to some tissues.
It has long been believed that obesity accelerates ageing, but this study is the first to prove it.
“This is the first study that evaluated the effect of body weight on the biological ages of a variety of human tissues,” said Dr. Steve Hovarth, holder of joint appointments in human genetics at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and in biostatistics at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health.
“Given the obesity epidemic in the Western world, the results of this study are highly relevant for public health.”
The study included almost 1,200 human tissues samples, 140 of which came from the liver. It was discovered that, while obesity does not affect the epigenetic age of fat, muscle, or blood tissue, the epigenetic age of the liver is increased by around three years for every ten BMI units.
Researchers aim to take the study further by determining whether or not premature ageing of the liver in obese people is preventable. If so, it may help with the development of certain diseases, such as diabetes and liver cancer. The breakdown of the liver can increase insulin resistance, and is therefore a major contributor to the development of type 2 diabetes.

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