Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Dietetics and Nutrition

First Advisor's Name

Adriana Campa

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Marianna K. Baum

Second Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Third Advisor's Name

Fatma G. Huffman

Third Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Fourth Advisor's Name

O. Dale Williams

Fourth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member


HIV, Obesity, FTO, Inflammation

Date of Defense



Studies indicate that overweight and obesity protect against HIV-disease progression in antiretroviral therapy (ART)-naïve patients. We examined retrospectively the relationship of overweight/obesity with HIV-disease progression in ART-naïve HIV+ adults in Botswana in a case-control study with 18-month follow-up, which included 217 participants, 139 with BMI 18.0-24.9 kg/m2 and 78 with BMI ≥25 kg/m2. Archived plasma samples were used to determine inflammatory markers: leptin and bacterial endotoxin lipopolysaccharide (LPS), and genotype single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) of the Fat Mass and Obesity Associated Gene (FTO).

At baseline, BMI was inversely associated with risk for AIDS-defining conditions (HR=0.218; 95%CI=0.068, 0.701, P=0.011), and higher fat mass was associated with reduced risk of the combined outcome of CD4+cell count ≤250/µL and AIDS-defining conditions, whichever occurred earlier (HR=0.918; 95%CI=0.847, 0.994, P=0.036) over 18 months, adjusting for age, gender, marriage, children, and baseline CD4+cell count and HIV-viral load.

FTO-SNP rs17817449 was associated with BMI (OR=1.082; 95%CI=1.001, 1.169; P=0.047). Fat mass was associated with the risk alleles of rs1121980 (OR=1.065; 95%CI=1.009, 1.125, P=0.021), rs8050136 (OR=1.078; 95%CI=1.021, 1.140; P=0.007), and rs17817449 (OR=1.086; 95%CI=1.031, 1.145; P=0.002), controlling for age, gender, tribe, total energy intake, and activity. There were no associations of SNPs with markers of disease progression.

Leptin levels were positively associated with BMI (β=1.764; 95%CI=0.788, 2.739; P=0.022) and fat mass (β=0.112; 95%CI=0.090, 0.135; P<0.001), but inversely with viral load (β=-0.305; 95%CI=-0.579, -.031; P=0.030). LPS levels were inversely associated with BMI (OR=0.790, 95%CI=0.630, 0.990; P=0.041), and fat mass (OR=0.852, 95%CI=0.757, 0.958; P=0.007) and directly with viral load (OR=2.608, 95%CI=1.111, 6.124; P=0.028), adjusting for age, gender, smoking and %fat mass.

In this cohort, overweight/obesity predicted slower HIV-disease progression. Obesity may confer an advantage in maintaining fat stores to support the overactive immune system. FTO-SNPs may contribute to the variation in fat mass; however, they were not associated with HIV-disease progression. Our findings suggest that the obesity paradox may be explained by the association of increased LPS with lower BMI and higher viral load; while viral load decreased with increasing leptin levels. Studies in African populations are needed to clarify whether genetic variation and inflammation mediate the obesity paradox in HIV-disease progression.





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