Seven of the identified genetic variations have much stronger effects in women than in men, suggesting they may underlie some of the normal difference in fat distribution between the sexes. Although these identified gene regions explain only about 1 percent of the general variation in waist-to-hip ratios, the authors note, the findings point towards specific biological mechanisms involved in regulating where the body stores fat. The regions affecting fat distribution implicate genes involved in regulating cholesterol, triglyceride levels, insulin and insulin resistance, which may improve understanding of how fat deposits in certain body locations are even more tightly linked to metabolic disorders than to obesity.
"By finding genes that have an important role in influencing fat distribution and the ways in which that differs between men and women, we hope to home in on the crucial underlying biological processes," says Cecilia Lindgren, PhD, of the Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics at Oxford University, senior researcher on the waist-to-hip ratio study, who was involved in both papers.
Hirschhorn is an associate professor of Genetics, and Speliotes is an instructor in Medicine at Harvard Medical School. Additional lead authors of the overall obesity study include investigators from Oxford University and Cambridge University in the U.K., the University of Michigan, the National Cancer Institute, University of North Carolina, deCODE Genetics, and the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden. Lead authors of the fat distribution paper include investigators from Regensburg University Medical Center, University of Michigan, Harvard School of Public Health, deCODE Genetics, Boston University, the Framingham Heart Study, Wellcome Trust, Sanger Institute and the University of North Carolina. The studies were supported by grants from a broad range of institutions, including the U.S. National Institutes of Health.
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