Obesity is commonly associated with a high incidence and prevalence of dyslipidaemia, cardiovascular disease and Type II diabetes. Interestingly, studies have also reported decreased antioxidant levels in obese subjects. This may constitute an independent risk factor in the pathogenesis of coronary artery disease as obese subjects would have a decreased capacity to prevent the oxidative modification of low-density lipoproteins, which is a mechanism suggested as central to the development of atherogenesis. As part of a study to investigate responses to weight loss, we have assessed the effects on GSH status of a decrease in body mass of 5%, either after 6 days of complete starvation or 11 days of a very low calorie diet (2.55MJ/day). There were significant differences between the two groups in the synthesis rate of erythrocyte GSH in response to weight loss. Both the fractional and the erythrocyte synthesis rate of GSH decreased significantly (P<0.01) in the starvation group by 22% and 16% respectively. In contrast, no change in synthesis rates was observed in the very low calorie diet group (P>0.05). Total erythrocyte concentration of GSH was unaffected by the weight loss within both groups. These results suggest that erythrocyte GSH synthesis is depressed in response to a very rapid weight loss induced by fasting. An acute reduction in GSH synthesis in response to a rapid weight loss may constitute a risk factor during periods of increased GSH demands.

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