The statistics on obesity are staggering. In 2014, more than 1.9 billion adults around the world were overweight. Of these, more than 600 million were obese. In America, more than 1/3 of the adult population, 78.6 million people, are obese. Obesity has been shown to cause additional medical conditions, like heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and strokes. Therefore, the costs of treatment for all of the illnesses enabled by obesity weigh heavily on international health care services.
While individuals’ lifestyles have a role to play in how heavy they become, more recent studies indicate that, despite common beliefs, genetics may play a larger role in determining weight than we previously thought. Nature journal published two research papers which argue, based on their findings, that a person’s genetic make-up predisposes them to a certain body type. Early knowledge of such a predisposition could assist doctors with predicting and preventing obesity and the illnesses associated with it.
One of these studies compared the genetic information and body mass index (BMI) grades of 339,000 people. Findings lead scientists to the conclusion that obesity is related to certain DNA sequences, but involves large numbers of genes. “Our work clearly shows that predisposition to obesity and increased body mass index is not due to a single gene or genetic change,” researcher Elizabeth Speliotes commented. “The large number of genes makes it less likely that one solution to beat obesity will work for everyone and opens the door to possible ways we could use genetic clues to help defeat obesity.”
The second pertinent study, 224,000 individuals genomes were studied in relation to their body type. The research succeeded in identifying a possible relationship between genetic information in specific locations of the genome and fat distribution in the human body. “We need to know these genetic locations because different fat deposits pose different health risks,” researcher Karen Mohlke explained. “If we can figure out which genes influence where fat is deposited, it could help us understand the biology that leads to various health conditions, such as insulin resistance/diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and heart disease.”