UCL News


UCL in the News: Study finds genetic link to child obesity

7 February 2008

Alok Jha, 'The Guardian' A study of more than 5,000 pairs of twins has found that a child's risk of becoming overweight is mostly down to nature, not nurture.

Overweight children are more likely to become overweight or obese adults, a condition that can contribute to ill health and increased cancer risk in later life. …

"This study shows that it is wrong to place all the blame for a child's excessive weight gain on the parents; it is more likely to be due to the child's genetic susceptibility," said Professor Jane Wardle [Cancer Research UK Health Behaviour Research Centre at UCL]. …

Identical twins, who share all their genes, are compared with non-identical twins, who share half their genes. By spotting behaviour or traits that occur more often in identical rather than non-identical ones, scientists can work out the relative contribution of genetics.

Study author Dr Susan Carnell [Cancer Research UK Health Behaviour Research Centre at UCL] said that genetically influenced behaviour was not inevitable. "One of the ways genes could be acting is through behaviour, ie food intake and physical activity, and these things are under our conscious control. Genes just might make it more difficult for some people than others."…