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Obesity, Is it genetic?

A new study looks into the genetic makeup of obese children. Researchers believe they have isolated at least two new gene variants that increase the risk of childhood obesity.

The findings

“This is the largest-ever genome-wide study of common childhood obesity, in contrast to previous studies that have focused on more extreme forms of obesity primarily connected with rare disease syndromes,” said lead investigator Struan F.A. Grant, Ph.D., associate director of the Center for Applied Genomics at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. “As a consequence, we have definitively identified and characterized a genetic predisposition to common childhood obesity.”

The stats

During the past 20 years, there has been a dramatic increase in obesity in the United States and rates remain high, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.

In 2010, no state had a prevalence of obesity less than 20%. Thirty-six states had a prevalence of 25% or more; 12 of these states (Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and West Virginia) had a prevalence of 30% or more.

Approximately 12.5 million of children and adolescents aged 2—19 years are obese, according to CDC statistics.

The next step

“The Center for Applied Genomics at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia has recruited and genotyped the world’s largest collection of DNA from children with common obesity,” said Grant. “However, in order to have sufficient statistical power to detect novel genetic signals, we needed to form a large international consortium to combine results from similar datasets from around the world.”

The future

This new finding will help doctors and researchers work toward fighting obesity in the future.

“This work opens up new avenues to explore the genetics of common childhood obesity,” said Grant. “Much work remains to be done, but these findings may ultimately be useful in helping to design future preventive interventions and treatments for children, based on their individual genomes.”

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