Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Obesity Risk: New Research Shows Clearest Genetic Link Yet

Date:
April 12, 2007
Source:
Wellcome Trust
Summary:
Scientists have identified the most clear genetic link yet to obesity in the general population as part of a major study of diseases. People with two copies of a particular gene variant have a 70 percent higher risk of being obese than those with no copies. Amongst white Europeans, approximately one in six people carry both copies.

Scientists have identified the most clear genetic link yet to obesity in the general population as part of a major study of diseases funded by the Wellcome Trust, the UK's largest medical research charity. People with two copies of a particular gene variant have a 70% higher risk of being obese than those with no copies.

Obesity is a major cause of disease, associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer. It is typically measured using body mass index (BMI). As a result of reduced physical activity and increased food consumption, the prevalence of obesity is increasing worldwide. According to the 2001 Health Survey for England, over a fifth of males and a similar proportion of females aged 16 and over in England were classified as obese. Half of men and a third of women were classified as overweight.

Scientists from the Peninsula Medical School, Exeter, and the University of Oxford first identified a genetic link to obesity through a genome-wide study of 2,000 people with type 2 diabetes and 3,000 controls. This study was part of the Wellcome Trust Case Control Consortium, one of the biggest projects ever undertaken to identify the genetic variations that may predispose people to or protect them from major diseases. Through this genome-wide study, the researchers identified a strong association between an increase in BMI and a variation, or "allele", of the gene FTO. Their findings are published online today in the journal Science.

The researchers then tested a further 37,000 samples for this gene from Bristol, Dundee and Exeter as well as a number of other regions in the UK and Finland.

The study found that people carrying one copy of the FTO allele have a 30% increased risk of being obese compared to a person with no copies. However, a person carrying two copies of the allele has a 70% increased risk of being obese, being on average 3kg heavier than a similar person with no copies. Amongst white Europeans, approximately one in six people carry both copies of the allele.

"As a nation, we are eating more but doing less exercise, and so the average weight is increasing, but within the population some people seem to put on more weight than others," explains Professor Andrew Hattersley from the Peninsula Medical School. "Our findings suggest a possible answer to someone who might ask 'I eat the same and do as much exercise as my friend next door, so why am I fatter?' There is clearly a component to obesity that is genetic."

The researchers currently do not know why people with copies of the FTO allele have an increased BMI and rates of obesity. "Even though we have yet to fully understand the role played by the FTO gene in obesity, our findings are a source of great excitement," says Professor Mark McCarthy from the University of Oxford. "By identifying this genetic link, it should be possible to improve our understanding of why some people are more obese, with all the associated implications such as increased risk of diabetes and heart disease. New scientific insights will hopefully pave the way for us to explore novel ways of treating this condition."

The findings were welcomed by Dr Mark Walport, Director of the Wellcome Trust. "This is an exciting piece of work that illustrates why it was so important to sequence the human genome," says Dr Walport. "Obesity is one of the most challenging problems for public health in the UK. The discovery of a gene that influences the development of obesity in the general population provides a new tool for understanding how some people appear to gain weight more easily than others. This discovery, along with further results expected from the Wellcome Trust Case Control Consortium later this year, will open up a wealth of new avenues to understand and treat common diseases."

The FTO gene was first discovered whilst studying the DNA of a cohort of patients with type 2 diabetes. The risk of developing type 2 diabetes increases significantly for obese people. Through its effect on BMI, having one copy of the FTO allele increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 25%, having two by 50%.

"We welcome this result, which holds promise for tackling rising levels of obesity and the associated risk of developing type 2 diabetes," says Professor Simon Howell, Chair of Diabetes UK, which funded the original collection of samples from people with diabetes. "The discovery has been possible not only because of exemplary team work of scientists from a large number of institutions but also because of the cooperation of the 5,000 diabetes patients and 37,000 people without diabetes who gave blood samples for the study."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Wellcome Trust. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Wellcome Trust. "Obesity Risk: New Research Shows Clearest Genetic Link Yet." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 12 April 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/04/070412140958.htm>.
Wellcome Trust. (2007, April 12). Obesity Risk: New Research Shows Clearest Genetic Link Yet. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 25, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/04/070412140958.htm
Wellcome Trust. "Obesity Risk: New Research Shows Clearest Genetic Link Yet." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/04/070412140958.htm (accessed July 25, 2014).

Share This




More Health & Medicine News

Friday, July 25, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

New Painkiller Designed To Discourage Abuse: Will It Work?

New Painkiller Designed To Discourage Abuse: Will It Work?

Newsy (July 24, 2014) The FDA approved Targiniq ER on Wednesday, a painkiller designed to keep users from abusing it. Like any new medication, however, it has doubters. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Doctor At Forefront Of Fighting Ebola Outbreak Gets Ebola

Doctor At Forefront Of Fighting Ebola Outbreak Gets Ebola

Newsy (July 24, 2014) Sheik Umar Khan has treated many of the people infected in the Ebola outbreak, and now he's become one of them. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Condemned Man's US Execution Takes Nearly Two Hours

Condemned Man's US Execution Takes Nearly Two Hours

AFP (July 24, 2014) America's death penalty debate raged Thursday after it took nearly two hours for Arizona to execute a prisoner who lost a Supreme Court battle challenging the experimental lethal drug cocktail. Duration: 00:55 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Can Watching TV Make You Feel Like A Failure?

Can Watching TV Make You Feel Like A Failure?

Newsy (July 24, 2014) A study by German researchers claims watching TV while you're stressed out can make you feel guilty and like a failure. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

    Health News

      Environment News

        Technology News



          Save/Print:
          Share:

          Free Subscriptions


          Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

          Get Social & Mobile


          Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

          Have Feedback?


          Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
          Mobile: iPhone Android Web
          Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
          Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
          Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins