Dr. Bessesen is a Colorado native who received his training at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center. Since 1991 he has been based at Denver Health Medical Center where he has a basic science laboratory, and provides clinical services in general endocrinology. His research focuses on the role that abnormalities in the partitioning of dietary fat between storage and oxidation might play in the development of obesity and insulin resistance. His laboratory performs tracer studies in outbred strains of rats selected for susceptibility to obesity on a high fat diet. In addition his laboratory studies the metabolic fate of ethanol as a nutrient. Recent studies have used both stable isotopes and 14C labeled tracers to look at the interaction of dietary fat and carbohydrate in human skeletal muscle. These studies employ indirect calorimetry, tracer infusions, tissue biopsies, and limb balance measurements to provide a comprehensive view of dietary nutrient partitioning. His past work examined the role that triglyceride uptake by the central nervous system might play in body weight regulation via alterations in appetite/satiety, macronutrient preference, or central control of peripheral metabolism. Clinically Dr. Bessesen is interested in the use of case management strategies to reduce the cost of care for patients with diabetes.
Out to get the skinny on thin folks
Colo. doctor gets $1 million to study why some seem destined to stay slim
By Karen Augé
Denver Post Staff Writer
Copyright © The Denver Post 2004
4 January 2004: After years of feeding and overfeeding fat rats, putting them on
diets and on small exercise wheels, of studying why they gain weight, why they lose
it and gain it back again and again, something piqued the interest of Dr. Dan
The skinny rats.
Sure, they were bred to be lean, the same way fat rats were bred to bulk up.
But there was something different about the thin rats' behavior, something that mere breeding couldn't explain.
They just didn't eat as much.
In fact, after being overfed for days, the stuffed skinny rats actually left food on their little rat dinner plates.
"The obesity-resistant rats, they overeat for a day and they seem to get it. They reduce their food intake by the third day. And they reduce their food intake not only to where it was before but down lower to compensate for overeating. It's a natural phenomenon," Bessesen said.
Since rats rarely fret that their jeans are too tight or compare their bodies unfavorably to those of Britney Spears or Ashton Kutcher, Bessesen figured something else must be at work. Something biological.
So the Denver Health endocrinologist decided to study whether something similar is going on in humans, something innate that makes them prone to remain thin.
"If there is something different about their metabolism or their genetics, that would be interesting to know," Bessesen said.
The National Institutes of Health apparently found the idea interesting as well. The NIH gave Bessesen $1 million to probe the psyches, and the biology, of skinny people over the next five years.
"We spend so much time studying obesity, maybe we ought to study thinness," Bessesen said.
His goal is to find about 200 men and women between the ages of 25 and 35, about half of whom are obese and half of whom are thin and what he calls "weight stable."
"We're going to recruit a group of people we think are going to stay thin," Bessesen said.
He bases that assumption on a range of evidence. First, candidates for the thin group must have a Body Mass Index - calculated by measuring height and weight - between 19 and 23. Bessesen is also looking for people whose family members are thin and whose weight has been relatively stable.
Of course, he's also looking for overweight people to compare the thin ones with.
Bessesen plans to figure out how much the study subjects normally eat and then feed them 40 percent more for three days. Then, researchers will watch who does what in the following days.
Bessesen's theory is that thin people will cut way back on what they eat, while obese people won't.
When he tried a similar experiment on a smaller scale, thin people not only cut back on how much they ate after overeating for a few days, but they also reported feeling almost repulsed by food.
"I don't think they consciously did it. It was their body telling them to. They would say things like, 'The food just stuck in my throat."' Whereas "others would say, 'That was a good burrito, give me another one."'
People have studied the psychology, and the biology and genetics, of obesity for years. And with good reason. Sixty-five percent of the country's adult population is now overweight, said Dr. James Hill, director of the Clinical Nutrition Research Unit at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center.
In other words, being overweight is now the norm. But more researchers are looking for answers not only to why people are overweight but why some remain thin.
"People are starting to look into it. They are looking for genes that make you skinny rather than make you fat. And it's quite likely that there are some genes that protect you from gaining weight," Hill said.
Not that those genes provide anyone with carte blanche for a lifetime of Big Macs.
"For most people, genes alone aren't powerful enough to determine weight. You're still going to gain weight if you eat and eat and don't do physical activity," Hill said.
So what's the advantage of knowing whether genetic disposition to largeness or leanness exists?
"By knowing early on who's susceptible (to obesity), it allows us to target intervention efforts," Hill said. "Then, obviously, drugs are made from gene products. If we understand the genes, it's possible one day - one day far in the future, so don't call me next week - that that may lead to more effective drugs for obesity."
In the meantime, Bessesen, working with the CU center, is looking for lean and hungry people. To find out more about the study or to participate, call 303-315-4087.
"If I Had A Million Dollars..."
Posted January 2004 by Arrogant Bastard
On "Elephant Rants" Website—the wit and wisdom of Rush Limbaugh
DENVER - A Denver endocrinologist has been awarded $1 million to study the psyches
and biology of thin people over the next five years. For years, Dr. Dan Bessesen has
overfed fat rats, put them on diets and on small exercise wheels, and studied why
they repeatedly gained and lost weight. What caught his interest were the skinny rats.
They seemed to know to eat less.
Rush says: Thin people eat less and exercise. They don't sit on their asses all day like fat people, where's my million dollars?
I predict that he will find that thin people...as children...spent (and as adults spend) less time in front of the tv; don't eat in front of the tv; and drink less soft drinks and beer.
I predict that he will also find that he needs another grant for a follow up study.
Your tax dollars at work ladies and gentlemen...
Dan Bessesen does guitars and vocals in the band “Dogs in the Yard”. The band's next gig is 17 April at Herman’s Hideaway in Denver, opening for Opie Gone Bad. For more info see: http://www.dogsintheyard.com/
Environmental Health Perspectives, the journal of the National Institute of
Environmental Health Sciences (Department of Health and Human Services) published an
interesting editorial about Obesity in the 21st century:
For the latest in "obesity trends," including the sobering news that Colorado, the Skinny State , is twice as fat as it was in 1991, go to the CDC's site at http://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpa/obesity/trend/index.htm