Does a Genetic Mutation Cause Severe Obesity?

Obesity has long been looked at as a problem caused by too many calories in and too few calories out, but new studies are finding clues pointing towards hormones, brain-cell oddities, and genetic mutations.

Did Your DNA Make You Obese?

“Fault-Free Obesity”

There is a portion of the population that diet and exercise as much as anyone else but they can only lose so much weight, but some sort of invisible boundary holds them from becoming a healthy BMI (generally about 25-18 depending on height.) A new study has found that a gene (ankyrin-B) is the cause–one that may have evolved to keep us safe from famine. This gene ties protein to cells’ membranes but in mutated versions, the calories are stored in fat tissues, instead of being spread around for energy.

Fat Mice

A study of regular mice and mice with a mutated ankyrin-B gene were given the same diet and exercise regime but despite this, the mice with the mutated genes became obese. The increased accumulation of fat cells “spilled over” to the liver and muscles; this created inflammation and a disrupted response to insulin–trademarks of type 2 diabetes. This is how humans develop type 2 diabetes as well.

Protection From Starvation

As was stated before, this gene is believed to have developed to help our ancestors store energy when food wasn’t available. However, these days, food is everywhere and in first world countries we don’t really need this gene anymore; it’s possibly what’s behind the obesity epidemic. Researchers have found that the gene was present in 1.3 percent of whites and 8.4 percent of black individuals studied. A study in the UK identified that 30 percent of a Pakistani population had the genetic mutation; it’s also well-known that individuals of middle eastern heritage have a higher predisposition for diabetes.

This is a promising new step towards figuring out how to improve metabolism and possibly even fixing this obesity-causing mutation.

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