Genes that dictate fat storage may increase the risk of diabetes

One reason for the high rates of obesity and type 2 diabetes may be the fact that the human genome has yet to catch up with modern lifestyles, according to a new study from the Salk Institute for Biological Studies.

Their findings, which were published in the journal Nature, indicate that a certain gene known as CRCT3 inhibits the rapid burning of fat that could be beneficial given modern lifestyles, which are generally more sedentary.

In prehistoric times when humans evolved, this gene played a crucial role in survival. It allowed early humans to go long stretches of time without eating. However, modern humans lead far less active lifestyles and eat much more fat. The gene now contributes to excessive storage of fat, which dramatically increases the risk of type 2 diabetes.

"Ideas about obesity are based on concepts of feast or famine," said Marc Montminy, who led the study. "As humans, we developed ways of coping with famine by expressing genes like CRTC3 to slow the rate of fat burning. Individuals with these active "thrifty genes" had an advantage - they could survive long periods without food."

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