Obesity gene 'stops you feeling full'
28 July 2008
A new study carried out by researchers at UCL and the Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London, has found that children who carry a gene which is strongly identified with obesity could be fatter because they may not know when they're full.
Previous studies have demonstrated that the gene, known as FTO, is strongly associated with obesity, and the results of this investigation strongly suggest that the gene works by modifying appetite, so that the children in the study who had two copies of the higher-risk FTO gene were less likely to have their appetite 'switched off' by eating.
Scientists examined over 3,300 children between the ages of 8 and 11 who carried the so-called FTO gene to see how it influenced appetite, and eating and exercise habits. The researchers found that children with two copies of a higher-risk version of the gene are less likely to have the appetite switched off by eating. FTO is the first common obesity gene to be identified in Caucasian populations.
The effect of FTO on appetite is the same regardless of the age, sex, socioeconomic background or body mass index of the children.
Previous studies have shown that adults with two copies of the FTO gene are on average 3kg heavier, and individuals with a single copy are on average 1.5kg heavier, than those without the gene.
Professor Jane Wardle of UCL Epidemiology and Public Health, who led the study, said: "It is not simply the case that people who carry the risky variant of this gene automatically become overweight - but they are more susceptible to overeating.
"This makes them significantly more vulnerable to the modern environment which confronts all of us with large portion sizes and limitless opportunities to eat."
The study is published in the 'Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism'. Click on the links above to see the BBC's online coverage of this story, to visit UCL Epidemiology & Public Health and to go to the 'Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism'.
UCL Epidemiology & Public Health
UCL Epidemiology & Public Health is a multidisciplinary department, with a staff base which aims to develop a better understanding of health and prevention of ill health through vigorous research and the development of research methodology.
This knowledge is applied via undergraduate and graduate teaching, contributions to national and international health policy and contributions to the wider public understanding on health.
To read some recent stories about obesity from UCL Epidemiology & Public Health, follow the links below.
UCL obesity public seminar
Obesity: the fuller figures
New policies needed to tackle obesity epidemic