Genetic variation leads to increased risk of obesity

A team of researchers from the University of Oxford have confirmed that a gene previously identified as a potential cause of increased obesity and type 2 diabetes risk does in fact play a role in these two conditions.

In 2007, an international coalition of investigators found that a variation of the FTO gene appeared to increase obesity and diabetes risk. Individuals who had two copies of the gene were an average of three kilograms heavier. This increase in body fat contributed to higher diabetes risk.

However, the investigation was too general to point to the gene variation as a definite cause of obesity. Now, the University of Oxford team has shown that this genetic variant does play a role in obesity and diabetes risk.

The team studied mice that were genetically bred to have two copies of the FTO gene to prove the association. Despite being fed healthy diets, these mice ate significantly more and consequently had much higher levels of body fat than genetically normal mice.

"We can now think about developing drugs that turn down the activity of the FTO gene as potential anti-obesity pills. That's a long way off and there's no certainty of success, but it's an enticing prospect," said Francis Ashcroft, who led the study.
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