Page URL:

Half carry obesity genetic variation

12 May 2008
Appeared in BioNews 457

Half of the UK population may be at increased risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart disease, due to a genetic variation which makes carrier prone to weight gain, according to a study published in the journal Nature Genetics last week. The researchers, based at Imperial College London and other international institutions, believe that the discovery may speed the development of genetic screening programmes for identifying those at greatest risk from obesity-related health problems.

'A better understanding of the genes behind problems such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease means that we will be in a good position to identify people whose genetic inheritance makes them most susceptible,' said study leader Professor Jaspal Kooner. 'We can't change their genetic inheritance. But we can focus on preventative measures, including life-style factors such as diet and exercise, and identifying new drug targets to help reduce the burden of disease', he said.

Carriers of the genetic variant, which was a third more common among the Indian Asian population, tended to be 2kg heavier and be 2cm larger around the waist. The researchers believe that this may help to explain the increased incidence of obesity and diabetes among Asian Indians - who make up 25 per cent of the world's population, but are expected to account for 40 per cent of the world's heart disease by 2020.

In the hunt for genes involved in obesity, the researchers examined the genetic code of 30,000 British citizens of European and Asian descent. They pinpointed a gene sequence located near to a gene called MC4R, which is believed to play a role in regulating energy levels by influencing appetite and metabolism. The research was carried out as part of the London Life Sciences Population study (LOLIPOP) - an ongoing project aimed at examining the genetic basis of obesity, diabetes and heart disease among UK citizens.

Looking at 90,000 people from Sweden, an independent study by researchers from Oxford University and the Wellcome Trust's Sanger Institute in Cambridge, linked another region near to the MC4R gene with obesity risk. The study, led by Ines Barroso from the Sanger Institute, found that carriers were on average 1.5kg heavier, with children gaining weight almost twice as fast as adults.

Last year, British scientists reported that people who carry two copies of a particular version of a gene called FTO - an estimated 16 per cent of the population - are, on average, 3kg heavier than people who do not have the variant, while those who carry just one copy of the gene variant - an estimated 50 per cent of the UK population - are around 1.6kg heavier.

'The precise role in obesity of genetic variants in FTO and near MC4R remains to be discovered, but we can now begin to understand the biological consequences of these', Barroso told the Guardian.

Gene sequence puts half of UK population at greater risk of obesity, researchers say
The Guardian |  5 May 2008
Gene sequence that can make half of us fatter is discovered
Imperial College |  4 May 2008
Genes 'up Indian's obesity risk'
BBC News Online |  6 May 2008
Half of people carry fat gene
The Daily Telegraph |  5 May 2008
22 November 2010 - by Dr Marianne Kennedy 
Scientists have found a direct link between the 'fat mass and obesity associated' (Fto) gene and increased weight...
18 October 2010 - by Chris Chatterton 
Scientists from the GIANT (Genetic Investigation of Anthropometric Traits) consortium have identified new genetic markers linked to body shape and obesity...
20 September 2010 - by Rosemary Paxman 
Chemical modifications to genes over a person's lifetime may influence their weight without changing their inherited DNA sequence, a new study has found. This is the first time long-standing chemical alterations to genes have been linked to body weight and obesity...
6 September 2010 - by Chris Chatterton 
New research suggests that people who are at an increased risk of developing obesity, due to their genetic makeup, can significantly reduce this risk by exercising....
26 April 2010 - by Dr Charlotte Maden 
The obesity-related gene FTO also plays a role in loss of brain tissue, according to a US study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences last week...
12 November 2007 - by Ailsa Stevens 
Scientists have moved a step closer to understanding how a gene previously linked to obesity makes people prone to weight gain, according to a study published last week in the journal Science. The discovery may help scientists to develop new treatments to combat the increasing numbers of...
17 April 2007 - by Dr Jess Buxton 
UK researchers have discovered that a common gene variant helps explain why some people are more prone to gaining excess weight than others. Adults and children with two copies of a particular version of the FTO gene are, on average, three kilograms heavier than people who...
17 April 2006 - by BioNews 
Researchers based in the US have identified a genetic variation that substantially increases a person's risk of obesity. The research team, based at the Boston University Medical School in Massachusetts, found that small genetic changes in a region of DNA near a gene called INSIG2, can increase the likelihood of...
18 July 2005 - by BioNews 
Scientists at Imperial College London have announced that they have discovered a gene linked to type 2 diabetes and obesity. Defective versions of the gene ENPP1 disrupt the way the body stores energy and handles sugar by blocking the hormone insulin. Philippe Froguel and his team found that children with...
to add a Comment.

By posting a comment you agree to abide by the BioNews terms and conditions

Syndicate this story - click here to enquire about using this story.