Obesity is defined as the excessive and abnormal accumulation of fat in the body that poses a serious risk to the health of the individual. Obese people are predisposed to diseases such as Type II diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. According to WHO statistics, over 1.9 billion adults worldwide were overweight in 2014.
Body mass index (BMI) is the metric used to determine if a person is overweight or obese and is defined as the weight of a person (in kilograms) divided by the square of their height (in metres). Obese people have a BMI greater than or equal to 30. While it is known that obesity has complex links to heredity, it isn’t known which groups of genes are involved.
A Nature paper published last month by the Genetic Investigation of Anthropomorphic Traits (GIANT) consortium provided evidence for the involvement of specific regions of the human genome in obesity. Researchers used computational techniques like genome wide association studies and Metabochip analysis to compare the BMIs and genomes of 339,000 people. They discovered 97 new sites in the genome that are linked to obesity, 56 of which are novel.
“Our work clearly shows that predisposition to obesity and increased body mass index is not due to a single gene or genetic change,” senior author Elizabeth Speliotes said in a press release. “The large number of genes makes it less likely that one solution to beat obesity will work for everyone and opens the door to possible ways we could use genetic clues to help defeat obesity.”
A number of genes known to affect neuronal plasticity, BMI and neurotransmitter activity have been identified in the study. This information will help in elucidating specific pathways that are involved in the development of obesity and open up new avenues for the development of novel weight loss therapies.
The original publication can be accessed here.