Our obesity research

Garvan's obesity research is diverse and far-reaching. We're using the latest technology to translate scientific discoveries direct to the clinic. Some of our obesity focus areas include:

  • prediabetes and how the microbiome affects blood sugar
  • the impact of bariatric surgery on health
  • the link between inflammation and obesity
  • and the role of brown fat and blood sugar levels.

If you want to help make a difference, please support our research.

Key areas of investigation

Dr Dorit Samocha-Bonet
Dr Dorit Samocha-Bonet

Your microbiome and prediabetes

One of the major conditions travelling hand-in-hand with obesity is prediabetes – the precursor to type 2 diabetes. Prediabetes affects around 25% of Australian adults.

Prediabetes can fly under the radar for years – until the symptoms crash down like Jenga blocks. Prediabetes on its own is a risk factor for everything that diabetes can herald – cardiovascular disease, certain types of cancer, fatty liver.

But if we’re aware of prediabetes (and being overweight is one of the warning signs) there’s a lot we can do.

This is the focus of Garvan’s new clinical trial PREDICT.

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Prof Katherine Samaras
Prof Katherine Samaras

Weight loss and the impact of bariatric surgery

One area of research undertaken by obesity and diabetes researchers at Garvan is understanding how weight loss improves human health and improves diabetes and related diseases. Professor Katherine Samaras, working with a team that includes scientists, cardiologists and surgeons, has been examining the impact of bariatric surgery on health.

Modest weight loss, even five kilograms, improves many health problems. It improves diabetes control, blood pressure, cholesterol and systemic inflammation. It prevents the development of diabetes in those with a high risk.

Bariatric procedures, such as gastric banding, sleeve gastrectomy and gastric bypass are proven, effective treatments for obesity, particularly where diabetes co-exists.

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Prof Mark Febbraio
Prof Mark Febbraio

Fat sends inflammation messages to the immune system

Did you know that fat sends messages to the immune system that can affect your risk of diabetes and other diseases? Researchers from Garvan and the Baker Institute are making sense of how these messages are sent, and how they might be intercepted to halt the development of disease.

Researchers believe that inflammation could be the missing link between obesity and its associated diseases.  Although inflammation plays an important role in defending the body during infection, prolonged inflammation (such as in obesity) can help other diseases thrive in the body.

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Prof Jerry Greenfield
Prof Jerry Greenfield

Brown fat and blood sugar levels

Garvan scientists have shown that brown fat – a type of fat that burns energy to keep us warm – can also help keep blood sugar steady in adults.

We measured brown fat activity and blood glucose continuously in real time in study participants, and found that individuals with more brown fat had smaller fluctuations in blood sugar.

The incidence of type 2 diabetes, which is characterised by high blood sugar, is reaching epidemic proportions worldwide. There is a need for new insights into how blood sugar levels can be controlled, beyond mechanisms actioned by currently available therapies.

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