Monday, July 28, 2008

'Obesity Gene' Works By Influencing Appetite

“A gene associated with obesity works through effects on appetite, according to a study of over 3,000 UK children led by researchers at UCL (University College London) and the Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London, and published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. The finding helps to unravel the mechanism of the genetic basis of obesity. Previous studies have demonstrated that the gene, known as FTO, is strongly associated with obesity. However, it was not known whether it affects weight by influencing the amount of food eaten or the amount of calories burnt off. The results of this study strongly suggest that the gene works by modifying appetite, so that the children in the study who had two copies of the higher-risk FTO gene are less likely to have their appetite 'switched off' by eating. The researchers, led by Professor Jane Wardle, UCL Epidemiology & Public Health, tested whether children carrying the higher risk gene had altered appetite in a sample of 3337 unrelated children aged 8-11 years old. This included parental reports of the children's height, weight and waist circumference and asking parents to complete a specially-designed questionnaire about their children's eating habits, to assess aspects such as their child's enjoyment of food and how easily they became full. ‘What we have shown is that children with the 'risky' variants of the gene have weaker satiety responses - meaning they don't just overeat, but they struggle to recognise when they are full. Importantly, the effect of FTO on appetite is the same regardless of the age, sex, socioeconomic background or body mass index of the children.’”

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