Genetic obesity is influenced by certain genes that affect body mass index and where fat is stored. Studies suggest that it may not be caused by one or two genes, but rather a set of genes. Knowing a person’s genetic variation could lead to new treatment methods and encourage healthy lifestyle choices.
A number of studies, including those by researchers at Boston University and Harvard Medical School, suggest that there is such a thing as genetic obesity. Genetics involves not only influencing an individual’s body mass index, but where fat stores are likely to be stored. In some cases, it is the presence of certain genes that influence genetic obesity. In other cases, the absence of certain genes, or some information within the genes, may be the most important factors.
Although scientists have long understood that genetic obesity exists, genetic components were originally thought to affect only a few families. Studies in the early part of the 21st century have suggested that people prone to obesity, particularly childhood obesity, may be more prevalent. The Boston University study in 2006 suggested that scientists have discovered a genetic link that may be shared by as many as 10% of European and African American populations. This new information could lead to discovering even more links in the future.
In the 2006 study, the researchers also found a variant in at least one gene, Insig2, known to regulate cholesterol and fatty acid synthesis. A variant has also been found in another gene, but the function of that gene has not yet been determined. Another study, published by Nature in 2010, suggested that deletions on a certain chromosome may provide an indication of genetic obesity, particularly severe obesity and which occurs early in a person’s life.
Other studies have also suggested that genetic obesity may not be the product of one or two genes, but rather a whole set of genes. If the right set is present, obesity is more likely to occur, especially in certain segments of the population. Researchers are still trying to map most of these genes and determine which ones might be responsible for a person’s predisposition to obesity. Despite the need for continued research, reports indicate that there is a sufficient relationship that indicates the existence of genetic obesity.
The presence of genetic obesity is very important as the medical community looks for new ways to combat the health problem. Knowing that a person has a certain genetic variation could lead to new treatment methods, such as drugs that help counteract that effect. Additionally, the medical community could be looking closely at those prone to obesity to encourage healthy lifestyle choices, in an effort to prevent poor eating habits and a sedentary lifestyle.