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Researchers Pinpoint Array of Obesity Genes
Date:10/11/2010

By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

SUNDAY, Oct. 10 (HealthDay News) -- Scientists have found genes that appear to play a role in the propensity for obesity.

The findings are reported in two new studies published in the Oct. 10 online edition of Nature Genetics.

In one report, researchers say they have identified 18 gene variants linked to obesity and confirmed the involvement of 14 others. In a second report, the same group of researchers say they have identified 13 gene variants that appear to direct fat to the belly or thighs.

"We have made a big leap forward in identifying new gene variations that contribute to the susceptibility to obesity and susceptibility to store fat more on your hips or more on your waist," said researcher Ruth Loos, a group leader in the Genetic Aetiology of Obesity Program in the MRC Epidemiology Unit at the Institute of Metabolic Science, in Cambridge, U.K.

Loos cautioned that these genes cannot be used to predict whether an individual will become obese or not. Right now, they have identified genes linked to obesity, but exactly how these genes work in developing a vulnerability to obesity isn't known, she added.

"But if we know the biology, perhaps we can invent a more effective preventive strategy. Maybe we can identify proteins that we can target with drugs," Loos said. "It's going to take years before these new discoveries will develop into new interventions."

In addition, having these gene variants doesn't mean that an individual is definitely going to be obese. "The prediction is not much better than just flipping a coin," Loos said.

For the first study, Loos and her colleagues looked at data from 46 gene studies that had identified genes linked to body mass index (or BMI, a measurement that takes into account height and weight). Together, these studies included 123,865 people.

In this meta-analysis, which is a review of previously
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