Scientists find how "obesity gene" makes people fat

LONDON Mon Jul 15, 2013 10:45pm IST

Women sit on a bench in New York's Times Square May 31, 2012. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/Files

Women sit on a bench in New York's Times Square May 31, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Brendan McDermid/Files

Related Topics

Stocks

   
Rajalakshmi (C), 28, smiles after winning the Miss Wheelchair India beauty pageant in Mumbai November 26, 2014. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui

Miss Wheelchair India

Seven women from across India participated in the country's second wheelchair beauty pageant, which aims to open doors for the wheelchair-bound in modelling, film and television, according to organisers  Slideshow 

LONDON (Reuters) - Scientists have unravelled how a gene long associated with obesity makes people fat by triggering increased hunger, opening up potential new ways to fight a growing global health problem.

A common variation in the FTO gene affects one in six of the population, making them 70 percent more likely to become obese - but until now experts did not know why.

Using a series of tests, a British-led research team said they had found that people with the variation not only had higher levels of the "hunger hormone" ghrelin in their blood but also increased sensitivity to the chemical in their brains.

"It's a double hit," said Rachel Batterham from University College London, who led the study, which was published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation on Monday.

The discovery follows studies of blood samples from people after meals, combined with functional magnetic resonance imaging of volunteers' brains and cell-based studies looking at ghrelin production at a molecular level.

Batterham said the work provided new insights and possible new leads for treatment, since some experimental drugs are known to suppress ghrelin and could be particularly effective if targeted at patients with the obesity-risk variant of the gene.

Previous research has also shown that ghrelin can be reduced by eating a high-protein diet.

Steve Bloom of Imperial College London, who was not involved in the study, said the FTO gene only explained a small part of the obesity epidemic but the latest discovery was "an important step forward" in unravelling the various factors involved.

The prevalence of obesity is increasing worldwide at an alarming rate and both developed and developing countries are affected. Obesity is a major risk factor for diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers.

At least 2.8 million adults die each year as a result of being overweight or obese and more than 40 million children under the age of five were overweight in 2011, according to the World Health Organisation.

Developing effective obesity drugs has been a challenge for drugmakers, although some new medicines are now coming through.

After a gap of more than a decade, two new obesity drugs - Vivus Inc's (VVUS.O) Qsymia and Arena Pharmaceuticals Inc's (ARNA.O) Belviq - were approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration last year.

Belviq's launch was delayed, however, pending a final classification on its risk of abuse and Qsymia's sales have been disappointing, triggering fierce criticism from Vivus's largest shareholder.

(Editing by Sophie Walker)

FILED UNDER:

SAARC Summit

Reuters Showcase

Online Grocery

Online Grocery

Online grocers come up trumps in India's e-commerce boom   Full Article 

Land Disputes

Land Disputes

Disputes over land for industry on the rise in India, angering locals - charities  Full Article 

Google in Europe

Google in Europe

Insight - Behind Google's Europe woes, American accents  Full Article 

Soccer in India

Soccer in India

India's two leagues to merge within five years - FA official  Full Article 

Ebola Outbreak

Ebola Outbreak

Ebola vaccine from Glaxo passes early safety test  Full Article 

Ferguson Protests

Ferguson Protests

More than 400 arrested as Ferguson protests spread to other U.S. cities  Full Article 

Hughes Critical

Hughes Critical

Hughes' fight for life enters third day   Full Article 

Billboard History

Billboard History

One Direction makes Billboard history, knocks Swift from No. 1   Full Article 

Reuters India Mobile

Reuters India Mobile

Get the latest news on the go. Visit Reuters India on your mobile device.  Full Coverage