The findings of the largest ever study on the human genome has revealed the strongest evidence for the genetic basis of obesity. A team of researchers at the international Genetic Investigation of Anthropometric Traits Consortium have analysed genetic samples obtained from over 300,000 individuals and found that over 140 locations across the entire genome could play a role in obesity traits.
This probably explains why some people are more likely to be affected by obesity and add extra weight, while others do not. These findings have published in the form of 2 papers in the journal Nature, where one study focused on the genetic basis of where exactly the fat is stored in the body.
“We need to know these genetic locations because different fat deposits pose different health risks,” says senior author Karen Mohlke, a professor of genetics at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine.
It is well known that individuals with more fat around the abdomen are more likely to be affected by health concerns such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Now, the researchers have found 30 new regions on the genome that could determine the distribution of fat in the body.
The second study focused on the association between body mass index and genes, and found that 100 locations on the entire genome could be linked to it, and in turn, they could be linked to factors such as appetite and energy use.
What’s surprising is the fact that many of these genetic locations that were linked to obesity were also linked to the nervous system.
“You don’t go to your neurologist to discuss your weight — when we think about obesity we don’t generally think of the nervous system.
“But this changes the way we think about obesity — rather than just a metabolic condition perhaps it has a neurological basis too,” she says.
The fact that there are several genetic regions influencing obesity simply means that there’s a lot to do and understand in the process of learning how people gain weight.
“Our work clearly shows that predisposition to obesity and increased BMI is not due to a single gene or genetic change.
“The large number of genes makes it less likely that one solution to beat obesity will work for everyone, and opens the door to possible ways we could use genetic clues to help defeat obesity,” she says.