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Fighting Side Effects From HIV Drugs

Fighting Side Effects From HIV DrugsExercise and nutrition can actually reverse the negative side effects caused by some HIV drugs, report a team of researchers from Tufts.

Boston [03.07.02] While much progress has been made in the development of more effective HIV drugs, some of their side effects continue to be serious -- often requiring additional medical care and even additional drugs. But Tufts researchers have reported -- for the first time -- that nutrition and exercise can actually reverse a common side effect of some anti-HIV drugs.

A team at Tufts, led by Dr. Ronenn Roubenoff, worked with a 44-year-old HIV patient who had a metabolic disorder called lipodystrophy -- a common side effect of some HIV drugs.

"In lipodystrophy ... the body goes through a redistribution of its fat stores," reported Reuters. "A patient can develop sunken cheeks while they accumulate fat around the waist and on the upper back. It can put patients at risk for hardening of the arteries, high blood pressure and diabetes."

But a four-month exercise and diet regimen designed by the Tufts team showed significant progress in treating the condition.

"The research tested a combination regimen of exercise and a low-fat, high fiber diet intervention treatment," reported Reuters. "While [the patient] lost about 14 pounds, body composition analysis revealed that the patient experience a 28 percent decline in percent body fat. Most importantly, according to Roubenoff, his visceral body fat -- fat around the organs -- was reduced by 52 percent."

The reduction in visceral body fat is important because it is associated with a risk for diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

"To our knowledge, this report is the first to show that diet and exercise are capable of reversing much of the metabolic and body composition change seen in lipodystrophy," Roubenoff, an associate professor of medicine and nutrition at Tufts, told Reuters.

The Tufts research, published in a recent issue of the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, could indicate a greater role for nutrition and exercise in addressing side effects of some HIV drugs.

"Physicians tend to look for (drug) solutions to medical problems," he said. "Here is a lifestyle solution that can be quite powerful in its result."

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