Original Article

International Journal of Obesity accepted article preview 5 December 2016; doi: 10.1038/ijo.2016.221

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Weight loss-induced cellular stress in subcutaneous adipose tissue and the risk for weight regain in overweight and obese adults

N J T Roumans1, R G Vink1, F G Bouwman1, P Fazelzadeh2, M A van Baak1 and E C M Mariman1

  1. 1Department of Human Biology, NUTRIM School of Nutrition and Translational Research in Metabolism, Maastricht University Medical Centre+, Maastricht, The Netherlands
  2. 2Nutrition, Metabolism and Genomics Group, Division of Human Nutrition, Wageningen University, Wageningen, The Netherlands

Correspondence: NJT Roumans, Maastricht University, Department of Human Biology, NUTRIM, School of Nutrition and Translational Research in Metabolism, Universiteitssingel 50, Postbus 616, Maastricht 6200 MD, the Netherlands. E-mail: n.roumans@maastichtuniversity.nl

Received 1 August 2016; Revised 28 October 2016; Accepted 22 November 2016
Accepted article preview online 5 December 2016





Weight loss is often followed by weight regain after the dietary intervention (DI). Cellular stress is increased in adipose tissue of obese individuals. However, the relation between cellular stress and weight regain is unclear. Previously, we observed increased adipose tissue cellular stress of participants regaining weight compared to participants maintaining weight loss. In the current study, we further investigated the relation between weight regain and changes in the expression of stress-related genes and stress protein levels to determine possible predictors of weight regain.



In this randomized controlled trial, sixty-one healthy overweight/obese participants followed a DI of either a 5-week very low calorie diet (500kcal/d) or a 12-week low calorie diet (1250kcal/d) (WL period) with subsequent a 4-week weight stable diet (WS period), and a 9-month follow-up. The WL and WS period taken together was named the DI. Abdominal subcutaneous adipose tissue biopsies were collected in fifty-three participants for microarray and liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry analysis. RNA and protein levels for a broad set of stress-related genes were correlated to the weight regain percentage.



Different gene sets correlated to weight regain percentage during WS and DI. Bioinformatics clustering suggests that during the WS phase defined genes for actin filament dynamics, glucose handling and nutrient sensing are related to weight regain. HIF-1 is indicated as an important regulator. With regard to DI, clustering of correlated genes indicate that LGALS1, ENO1 and ATF2 are important nodes for conferring risk for weight regain.



Our present findings indicate that the risk for weight regain is related to expression changes of distinct sets of stress-related genes during the first four weeks after returning to energy balance, and during the DI. Further research is required to investigate the mechanistic significance of these findings and find targets for preventing weight regain.

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