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Health, including poverty-related diseases

EXGENESIS project targets obesity and type II diabetes

Background description

Europe’s increasing prosperity and fast-paced lifestyles have meant richer diets and more widespread consumption of convenient, processed ‘fast foods’. Meanwhile, advanced technologies have resulted in improved services and ever-increasing automation, requiring less physical effort in our day-to-day business.

For many, these changes represent nothing more than modern progress, but they do have a downside: as the gap between our food intake and our energy output grows, so do our waistlines. Today, in Europe, more and more people are becoming obese, i.e. chronically overweight. This condition can lead to some very serious consequences over the long term, including severe health problems such as heart disease and type II diabetes.

Profile

Regular exercise, along with a healthy diet, has long been seen as a way to avoid weight problems, but while the link between exercise and prevention of type II diabetes is very strong it remains a correlation, rather like the original evidence that smoking causes lung cancer. The EUfunded EXGENESIS project is tackling the epidemic of obesity and type II diabetes by improving our understanding of exactly how diet and exercise work.

EXGENESIS represents a major European consortium, involving 27 partners in 13 different European countries, funded as an Integrated Project under the EU Sixth Framework Programme for Research and Development. Partners say they plan to capitalise on recent advances in molecular, genetic and other areas of research, converting leading-edge knowledge into new measures for prevention and treatment of type II diabetes. Results will focus on more efficient approaches to healthier lifestyles, especially with respect to diet and exercise, and could lead to innovative medicines.

Full project title: Health benefits of exercise: identification of genes and signalling pathways involved in effects of exercise on insulin resistance, obesity and the metabolic syndrome
Project acronym: EXGENESIS
EU funding: €12.7 million
Project launch: January 2005
Duration: 60 months
Project coordinator: Prof. D. Grahame Hardie, University of Dundee United Kingdom
Website
European Commission contact person: Nathalie Vercruysse
Science in society significance The EXGENESIS consortium is investigating exactly how poor diet and lack of exercise contribute to increasing levels of obesity and diabetes. The information revealed will become an important resource for all actors in the field, including health professionals, educators, food and beverage suppliers, etc., who are trying to encourage exercise and better eating habits among citizens. The result will be better design of healthier programmes to treat or prevent obesity, type II diabetes and associated metabolic syndromes. Furthermore, say project partners, clear and unequivocal answers will put more pressure on European decision-makers to adopt such policies immediately. EXGENESIS results could also lead, one day, to new drugs that mimic the effects of exercise for people who are unable to undertake it themselves. And, by facing up to the problem of obesity, the project will help in the fight against other weight-related health problems such as heart disease and stroke. In more general terms, a better understanding of the effects of exercise and diet will help people everywhere to maintain a better state of health and a higher quality of life. Expected results/outcomes EXGENESIS partners hope their work will encourage all citizens to take more exercise and improve their diet. This means:
  • Educating the public on the benefits of a good diet and exercise;
  • Promoting policies that support healthier lifestyles, e.g. building cycle lanes and sports facilities, and discouraging the use of private cars.

The project will also:

  • Present findings on the interactions between diet and exercise;
  • Provide greater insight into the genes, proteins, and signalling pathways responsible for the health benefits of exercise;
  • Suggest more rational exercise regimes;
  • Identify targets for new drug development, for patients for whom diet and exercise alone are not successful.

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