Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Brain Background To Body Mass - Brain Genes Associated With Increased Body Mass

“A genetic study of more than 90,000 people has identified six new genetic variants that are associated with increased Body Mass Index (BMI), the most commonly used measure of obesity. Five of the genes are known to be active in the brain, suggesting that many genetic variants implicated in obesity might affect behaviour, rather than the chemical processes of energy or fat metabolism. Obesity is an increasing problem that results in individual risk to health as well as increasing burdens on health care systems. By identifying genetic variants that affect obesity, researchers hope to understand better the mechanisms regulating energy balance, which will guide the development of new therapies and help to develop improved diagnosis. ‘It might seem remarkable that it is the brain that is most commonly influenced by genetic variation in obesity, rather than fat tissue or digestive processes,’ says Dr Inês Barroso, a senior author on the study, from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute. ‘Until 2007, no genetic associations had been found for 'common obesity', but today almost all those we have uncovered are likely to influence brain function.’ ‘It may seem surprising that we know so little about the biology of such an important medical and social issue,’ says Mark McCarthy, Robert Turner Professor of Diabetes at the University of Oxford, a senior author on the paper. ‘We can use genetics to open the door on some of the processes that contribute to individual differences in the predisposition to obesity. We are finding that common diseases have complex causes, and it is only by understanding the biology that we can start to make rational attempts to treat and prevent conditions such as this.’”

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