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Metabolic Syndrome May Be in the Genes

Certain DNA raises the odds of this cluster of heart risk factors, experts say

THURSDAY, June 19 (HealthDay News) -- Your risk of developing metabolic syndrome -- a group of factors linked to heart disease and diabetes -- increases if you have five common gene variations, researchers say.

But one additional variant may still protect you from the condition, they add.

People with metabolic syndrome run four times the risk of heart disease and seven times the risk of diabetes as those without the condition. Metabolic syndrome is usually found in people with three of these symptoms: abdominal obesity, high blood triglyceride levels, lower levels of "good" HDL cholesterol, elevated blood pressure and elevated fasting blood glucose.

According to the June issue of Human Molecular Genetics, nutrition researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis found the variations on the CD36 gene, located in a part of chromosome 7 previously associated with metabolic syndrome in other studies.

This linkage is important, because as the population of obese adults continues to grow in the United States, they become susceptible to problems such as diabetes and heart disease. Better understanding of associations between obesity, the CD36 gene and disease risk may led to earlier identification and intervention for people susceptible to metabolic syndrome, the team said.

The DNA studied came from more than 2,000 African-Americans because variations in the gene are more common in these individuals; however, the researchers expect their discovery will apply to other populations.

The researchers also found that many variants affected blood levels of HDL cholesterol. They are examining how the relationship between CD36 and HDL cholesterol works to determine whether the HDL molecule is being changed by the products of the variants.

More information

The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has more about metabolic syndrome.

-- Kevin McKeever

SOURCE: Washington University School of Medicine, news release, June 17, 2008

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