We all know that our DNA can affect our health in many ways. This is true in the case of allergies – which you are more likely to have if any of your family has – and diseases like breast cancer. The connection is also present with regard to metabolism and the ability to maintain a healthy weight – although we still know a lot about the specificities of this connection.
But now, a new study published in Nature Genetics pushing our knowledge further by identifying multiple genetic variants that determine how the body regulates and distributes adipose tissue.
The study, conducted by scientists from the Genetic Investigation of Anthropometric Traits consortium, identified 24 positions on chromosomes – including 15 common and 9 rare – predisposing a person to a higher waist-to-hip ratio, considered a good way to detect cancer. # 39; obesity. These genes have affected metabolism, body fat regulation, bone growth, and a hormone that helps control glucose levels and fat breakdown.
You might wonder how locating these genetic variants will help us. The short answer is that understanding the science of these variants can help explain why obesity often leads to diseases such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease. The long answer is that in the future we may be able to develop therapies targeting these variants, especially the most common ones, in one way or another to prevent or treat obesity.
But what about those who are not common? "For the first time, we have been able to examine, on a large scale, how rare and infrequent variants affect the distribution of body fat," said Kari E. North, lead author of the study and professor of # 39; epidemiology at UNC Chapel Hill (where many scientists from the consortium are based). "These variants are rarer in the population, but their effects on individuals are much greater, which makes them perhaps more clinically relevant."
In other words: they affect very few people, but the treatments that target these variants could change their lives.
The more we know about the effects of our DNA on our ability to maintain a healthy weight, the more we are able to help two out of three adults considered overweight or obese. The road will be long, but this study brings us even closer to solving the problem and clearly shows that, when it comes to obesity, "nature" and "nurture" are important.
In the meantime, it is important to focus on ways to prevent obesity from an environmental or "natural" rather than genetic point of view. Moving your body regularly, eating an herbal diet full of healthy fats, lean proteins and healthy carbohydrates, and managing stress are all scientific ways to maintain a healthy weight.