TOPS Research Support Leads to Landmark Discoveries on Obesity
Since 1966, Take Off Pounds Sensibly (TOPS), an international non-profit weight loss organization based in Milwaukee, has been a major supporter of obesity research at MCW. TOPS Club, which is celebrating its 75th anniversary in 2023, has contributed more than $16 million toward understanding and treating the effects of obesity on health and on learning ways to help individuals effectively lose weight. TOPS is MCW’s longest sustaining donor.
“Support from the TOPS organization and its members has aided more than a generation of obesity researchers to investigate a variety of hypotheses and move the science forward. We are grateful for its generosity in supporting research and discovery,” says Srividya (Vidya) Kidambi, MD, MS, MCW’s medical director for TOPS research, professor of medicine and the chief of the division of endocrinology and molecular medicine at MCW (pictured right).
Research supported by TOPS has made major contributions to the world’s understanding of obesity and its links to diabetes, cardiovascular disease, inflammation and cancer. In 1981, Ahmed Kissebah, MD, PhD, then the medical director of TOPS research at MCW, was the first in the world to describe a cluster of metabolic features in patients that became known as “metabolic syndrome.”
His research described the role of insulin resistance in the metabolic complications of abdominal body fat versus gluteal obesity. In lay terminology, Dr. Kissebah’s research described the reasons why an apple-shaped body type is more detrimental to health compared to a pear-shaped body type.
TOPS-supported research also led to the landmark discovery in 2013 that an area on chromosome 3 is associated with all the fundamental features of obesity. Other research studies have focused on the role of different fat deposits on heart health and diabetes, with a particular focus on beneficial effects of a pear-shaped body type; the effect of race on resting metabolism with Black/African American women showing lower metabolism; identification of variants in multiple genes that affected plasma triglyceride levels; identification of obesity and cardiometabolic risk factors in children and adolescents; and understanding the impact of aging, exercise and heredity on the insulin resistance in human obesity.
In addition to funding support, thousands of TOPS Club members have participated in research studies, including the “TOPS Obesity Genes Project” – the engagement of approximately 600 families in one of the largest human studies of the genetics of obesity in the US.
MCW founded the TOPS Center for Obesity and Metabolic Research in 1984. Ten years later, MCW dedicated the center’s expanded facilities that included the Esther S. Manz Laboratory. Recently, a conference suite in MCW’s Hub for Collaborative Medicine was dedicated to TOPS Club in recognition for its support in combatting obesity.
– Richard (Dick) Katschke