Four new genes identified as markers for childhood obesity
The discovery of new genes that could contribute to childhood obesity may explain how hereditary factors can trump lifestyle choices when it comes to weight gain.
An international team of researchers compared the genomes of 1,509 severely obese UK children to children of normal weight. They were able to identify 29 genetic differences that set the heavier kids apart from the other kids, nine of which were strongly linked to early weight gain. Five of these genes were already known, but four are new.
What the new genes tell us
The new genes might indicate how their interactions with lifestyle factors like exercise or diet can influence weight gain, the study suggests.
“Some children will be obese because they have severe mutations, but our research indicates that some may have a combination of severe mutations and milder acting variants that in combination contribute to their obesity,” said Sadaf Farooqi of the University of Cambridge, one of the study’s authors, in an article on TIME Health & Family.
One newly identified gene, LEPR, was prevalent among the children who developed obesity early in life, but a separate version of the same gene was shown to appear in about six percent of the population. This suggests that determining how LEPR may shift and change over time might explain why some people with the gene develop obesity and others don't.
The research is part of an initiative called the UK10K project, which aims to determine how genetic variants influence obesity in children.