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Missing gene linked to obesity

4th February 2010

UK researchers believe some extremely overweight people could be missing crucial genes.

obesity1

Scientists from Imperial College London found that dozens of severely obese people they looked at were all lacking around 30 similar genes.

The same did not occur in people of normal weight.

Publishing the findings in the journal Nature, the team suggests the results offer clues as to whether obesity can be inherited.

The latest study focused on people regarded as morbidly obese with a Body Mass Index (BMI) of more than 40. The 700,000 people in the UK in this category are regarded as having the highest risk of health problems.

But while high calorie foods and lack of exercise are regarded as being behind the western obesity crisis, there is now a suggestion that genes may also play a role.

Professor Philippe Froguel from ICL said: "It is becoming increasingly clear that for some morbidly obese people, their weight gain has an underlying genetic cause.

"If we can identify these individuals through genetic testing, we can then offer them appropriate support and medical interventions, such as the option of weight loss surgery, to improve their long-term health."

The ICL team said while this particular set of gene “deletions” was rare and affected 7 in 1,000 morbidly obese people, they believe that other variations are yet to be discovered.

Dr Robin Walters from ICL added: “The combined effect of several variations of this type could explain much of the genetic risk for severe obesity, which is known to run in families.”

 

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