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Obesity linked to fat gene

A gene called FTO, which is found to regulate appetite, is responsible for making some people gain pounds easily, say experts.

health and fitness Updated: Nov 26, 2007 16:45 IST

It's a question which has posed a challenge to doctors for years - why do some people put on weight so easily while others with similar lifestyles stay slim? Now, science has the answer - it's due to our genes. Researchers in Britain have carried out a study and discovered a gene called FTO - the presence of which makes people more likely to become overweight, The Daily Telegraph reported here.

According to the team at the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge, the FTO gene is used in regions of the brain concerned with regulating appetite, notably one called hypothalamus, so FTO levels decrease following fasting.
"This is an astonishing finding. We never expected this first obesity gene to have such a direct effect on DNA. The protein corresponding to FTO is an enzyme, or biological catalyst, that modifies DNA that is damaged by chemicals," lead researcher Prof Chris Ponting was quoted as saying.

In fact, in their study, they found the FTO protein resembles enzymes that produce the penicillin antibiotics in bacteria and others that enable humans to sense and respond to changes in oxygen levels, for instance at high altitude. "We are very excited by these findings.

Obesity is a rapidly growing problem worldwide that significantly enhances the risk of diabetes, cardiac disease, high blood pressure and cancer.

"This breakthrough provides new leads for investigations into how chemical changes to our DNA cause an increase in fat mass and may ultimately help in the development of new drugs," another researcher Prof Frances Ashcroft was quoted as saying.

First Published: Nov 26, 2007 12:37 IST