Abdominal Body Fat Gains on ART and Viral Load: It Matters Where You Start

Published: March 3, 2015

Emily Newman
Original Article:  bit.ly/1M9aZhQ

New research presented at CROI 2015 last week gave new insight about a puzzling aspect of antiretroviral therapy (ART): lipodystrophy, or changes in body fat distribution. New findings show that people with higher viral loads when starting ART for the first time are more likely to undergo substantial body composition changes, such as an increased amount of fat in the abdominal area (called “central adiposity”), than those who start treatment with a lower viral load (abstract 140). This finding presents another reason why it’s important to start HIV treatment early.

Though it’s unclear why people on ART get lipodystrophy, protease inhibitors have, in the past, been suspected of causing body fat changes. Grace McComsey, MD, from Case Western Reserve University, presented new evidence that HIV, viral load and inflammation may also play a role in body composition changes above and beyond that which may be caused by any specific drug regimen.

In her study, treatment-naïve people with HIV who had viral loads in the highest range (over 100,000 copies/mL) before starting treatment had greater gains in abdominal fat and peripheral fat (e.g., fat on arms and legs) than people starting treatment with lower viral loads. People with higher IL-6 (a marker of immune activation) before starting treatment also had greater gains in peripheral fat.

Full text of article available at link below:  bit.ly/1M9aZhQ

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