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Obesity Gene Makes Children Eat More

Posted by Chrissie Cole
Thursday, December 11, 2008 12:27 PM EST
Category: Major Medical
Tags: FDA and Prescription Drugs, Obesity, Healthy Living, FTO Gene, Overweight, Exercise, Childhood Obesity


IMAGE SOURCE: © iStockPhoto / fat adolescent / author: LisaValder

If you find that you are always reaching for the sugary donuts and candy instead of the apples and grapes, you may have a gene that has been linked to an increased risk of obesity.

A study of more than 2,700 Scottish children found those with a common variation of the FTO gene tend to overindulge, often consuming 100 extra calories per meal, said Professor Colin Palmer, who led the study at the University of Dundee in Scotland.

Last year, scientists discovered the FTO gene was linked to obesity but they didn't know why. Most of the other genes thought to affect body weight influence appetite.

Children with the FTO gene variant opted for sugary, fatty foods over healthy options suggesting they were naturally drawn to them.

Overeating may be driven more by the need for calories than a preference for fatty foods. Fat is just a good way to get those extra calories.

For the study, the children took part in three eating tests that offered a wide range of food types.

The gene variant had no affect on the rate at which the body broke down food, or how physically active people are. There was also no evidence to support that those who carry the gene had any trouble registering when they were full or should stop eating.

“The findings show, the gene does not lead to obesity without overeating and suggests that obesity associated with this gene can be adjusted by careful dietary controls,” Palmer said.

Effectively it shows that the people with the relevant variants of the gene have a characteristic which may lead them to eat more unhealthy and fattening types of food.

Previous studies have shown that people carrying one copy of the key FTO variant (about 49 percent of the population), have a 30 percent increased risk of obesity, while those carrying two copies have an increased risk of nearly 70 percent.

Many different genes are most likely involved in obesity, said Professor Palmer.

“To effectively conquer the problem we must start understanding the underlying causes that influence our choices. We need to make healthier lifestyles more appealing, and thereby easier.”

While genetics are a factor in obesity, researchers say, regular exercise and physical activity can trump the effects of a genetic predisposition to being overweight in a recent study.

Researchers have found that variations of the FTO gene, significantly increases the chances of a person becoming obese.

In another recent study, researchers used statistical models to link obesity rates to the amount of time spent watching fast food advertising, finding that watching more fast food commercials increases the risk of obesity in children. #

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