The share of people with obesity in the world is increasing sharply. At present, half a million Swedes are estimated to be obese – a doubling compared with 1990 affecting men, women and children.
About 70 per cent of all persons with obesity have accompanying complications linked to excess weight, not least type 2 diabetes. This, in its turn, is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
The European association EFPIA, the umbrella organisation for 1,900 pharmaceutical producers and research institutes, is now investing funds and resources valued at about SEK 140 million, together with the EU, to develop methods that can identify those individuals with obesity who are at greatest risk of developing accompanying diseases.
The project is led by Professor Ulf Smith at the University of Gothenburg and involves researchers at the Lundberg Laboratory for Diabetes Research and at the Wallenberg Laboratory.
“The fact that more and more people in the world are falling ill as a consequence of obesity not only means that more people are risking a premature death. Obesity is also a major economic burden for our society. In Sweden alone, health care inputs for overweight and obesity are estimated to amount to about SEK 3 billion every year,” says Ulf Smith.
Research into diseases linked to metabolic disorders and obesity has long had a very high profile in Gothenburg, with many successful research groups as a result.
“Now we have the opportunity of working together with twelve other leading research groups in Europe, which hopefully may lead to improved treatment,” says Professor Jan Borén at the Sahlgrenska Academy who is one of the participating researchers.
One of the key areas of research involves basic studies into how the surplus fat is accumulated and distributed in the body, as well as its metabolic consequences and the risk of development of disease.