Can scientists find a remedy for obesity in Hispanics? Investigación y Desarrollo

It is no secret that obesity is a public health epidemic that America is trying to keep at bay. According to findings from Arizona State University, Hispanics in the U.S. have high obesity rates, with an estimated 55 percent qualifying to fit in that category. Researchers are now reporting that they have identified a protease (protein) responsible for weight gain and the one that can inhibit fat generation.

The researchers from Mexico and Spain — who hail from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), the Autonomous Metropolitan University (UAM), the National Institute of Genomic Medicine (IMEGEN) and Landsteiner Scientific Laboratory with the Spanish subsidiary Neopharm Obesity — have disclosed that the new information will help them create an effective drug to fight obesity in target populations.

"Obesity is one of the major problems that we will 'attack' with the use of genomic medicine," said Francisco Kuri Brena, director of new developments from the laboratory. "There are already companies developing medicines for the Caucasian population, we focusing the study to Latinos."

The UNAM researchers, who are being led by Patricia Ostrosky, director of the Institute for Biomedical Research, will be testing out the protein's effectiveness in both animal and human subjects. Another researcher has explained that the Mexican population's genome is unique from the Caucasian population, making many of the drugs available ineffective for the Hispanic population.

"We made use of genomic medicine, which is the application of knowledge of the human genome and has allowed us to predict drug efficacy in Mexican and Latino populations," said Kuri Bruna. "Obesity is one of the main problems we want to attack, because after the USA we are the next country with the majority of cases."

Genetics is not the only playing part in the obesity epidemic in the Hispanic community. According to a study from the University of Hawaii at Manoa, conducted by Jinan Banna and Marie Kainoa Fialkowski, self-reporting food intake is extremely faulty and filled with human error. The researchers studied Mexican-American women by recording their alleged food intake and comparing it to predicted energy requirements. The study —published in the online version of the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics — found that there was a discrepancy in what the women reported and what they really consumed.

"Estimated energy, protein, cholesterol, dietary fiber, and vitamin E intakes were significantly higher in plausible reporters than implausible," write the authors in their study. "There was a significant difference between the proportions of plausible vs implausible reporters meeting recommendations for several nutrients, with a larger proportion of plausible reporters meeting recommendations. Further research related to misreporting in Hispanic populations is warranted to explore the causes and effects of misreporting in studies measuring dietary intake, as well as actions to be taken to prevent or account for this issue."

Another study, published in the summer edition of the Journal of Social Issues, discovered that minorities facing negative stereotypes can see a detrimental effect on their health. According to Luis Rivera, lead researcher and an experimental social psychologist at Rutgers University-Newark, the negative stereotypes, and the consequent diminished motivation, can be part of the reason why minorities living in the United States have a higher obesity rate than whites — data from Arizona State University has found that Hispanics in the U.S. have high obesity rates, with an estimated 55 percent qualifying to fit in that category. In his study, Rivera discovered that Latinos were more likely to agree with negative stereotypes that applied to them than whites, suggesting that "somewhere in their heads they are making the connection that the stereotype is Latino, I am Latino, and therefore I am the stereotype."

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