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WEIGHT CONTROL: GENES AND OBESITY

Just to what extent one's genetic make-up influences predisposition to obesity is becoming increasingly clear. The past decade has seen a wealth of new evidence for inherited obesity. Whereas some isolated gene mutations

that confer profound obesity on a tiny minority of obese people have been found (e.g. leptin deficiency; leptin is a hormone intimately involved in the regulation of body fat and in appetite control), as many as 250 different genes are currently under investigation for their possible role in the development of obesity in the majority of affected individuals, and as much as 50-80% of predisposition is now attributed to genetic inheritance.

The implications of these findings are immense. Few specialist centres are able to offer regular DNA screening, but DNA investigation in an obese patient with other unusual physical signs might reveal the presence of an underlying genetic cause for the obesity. Although this would be unlikely to lead to any specific treatment possibilities, it could go a long way to helping affected individuals understand their obesity and providing them with a reason for their obesity other than the usual - mistaken - reasons of greed and laziness. It could also, perhaps, ease their guilt about their condition. Increased understanding of genetic influence might lead to future therapeutic opportunities as new drugs could be designed to target specific genetic pathways.

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Monday, June 1st, 2020
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