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Can we harness our genes to burn more calories?

November 1, 2016
Obesity Society
Novel biomedical research uncovers a tie between a genetic variant and energy expenditure – a potential biological pathway to increase calorie burn and weight loss, say researchers.

Researchers say they have identified a potential pathway in our muscle tissue to improve the rate at which our bodies burn calories. The study is one of the first to explore the tie between genetics and calorie burn (or energy expenditure), a relatively new area of biological study. The findings of the study were unveiled during a poster presentation at The Obesity Society Annual Meeting at ObesityWeek 2016 in New Orleans.

"Obesity research continues to show that our ability to gain or lose weight may not be completely reliant on individual behaviors, but perhaps our genetic traits," says lead author Paolo Piaggi, PhD, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), part of the National Institutes of Health. "This new study is one of the first to identify a specific genetic pathway in our muscle tissue that we may be able to harness to develop new treatments for obesity."

To reach their findings, researchers at NIDDK's Phoenix Epidemiology and Clinical Research Branch performed an exome-wide gene expression study in skeletal muscle biopsies from 219 healthy individual donors at rest and over 24 hours and measured long-term weight change over seven years. Among the genes associated with energy expenditure (EE), they found that the expression of the THNSL2 gene in skeletal muscle tissue had the strongest association between lower energy expenditure and weight gain. Based on their findings, it appears that an mRNA splice variant, a key player in translating a gene to a protein, impacts the production of a cytokine (SOFAT) secreted by T-cells that stimulates production of interleukin 6, suggesting that SOFAT may influence EE through the inflammatory pathways related to EE and obesity.

"The research brings us one step closer to better understanding the variation in weight gain among individuals, particularly when on similar diets," said Anthony Comuzzie, PhD, spokesperson for The Obesity Society and Scientist at Texas Biomedical Research Institute. "We know that there are ties between our genes and energy expenditure, and this study offers several potentially important extensions to that work, in particular by implicating a specific pathway for treatment."

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Obesity Society. "Can we harness our genes to burn more calories?." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 1 November 2016. <>.
Obesity Society. (2016, November 1). Can we harness our genes to burn more calories?. ScienceDaily. Retrieved June 20, 2024 from
Obesity Society. "Can we harness our genes to burn more calories?." ScienceDaily. (accessed June 20, 2024).

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