All too many people living with HIV disease have become familiar with lipodystrophy, the abnormal changes in body fat that many believe are caused by anti-HIV drugs as well as by HIV itself. Even though it is not known precisely what causes lipodystrophy to occur, researchers have been trying to find ways to prevent it. And two answers, a new study says, may be easy and close at hand: exercise and vitamin E.
Christos Mantzoros, MD, an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School, and his research team evaluated 120 HIV-positive men and women to see if exercise or diet had an effect on fat redistribution. Their study, published in the June edition of the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, found that women and men who regularly engaged in aerobic exercise or combined aerobic exercise with resistance training, such as weight lifting, had the lowest levels of triglycerides, which are a marker for lipodystrophy. It also appeared that those individuals who exercised were less likely to have insulin resistance, another marker of fat redistribution.
On the dietary front, the study found that those individuals who took vitamin E supplements had lower diastolic blood pressure. (Blood pressure readings are given as two numbers, such as 110 over 70. The second number is the diastolic blood pressure; it represents the pressure in the arteries when the heart is at rest.) This is important because the metabolic changes that occur along with lipodystrophy increase the risk of developing high blood pressure.
Based on these findings, the authors conclude that it would be important for researchers to conduct additional studies that can 'confirm these data and assess the potential therapeutic efficacy of exercise and diet in HIV-associated metabolic syndrome.' But check in with your regular physician to see if a bit of exercise and vitamin E in your life would be a good part of your care plan anyway.