Sunday, August 4, 2013


One of the riddles that has been defying rational scientific explanation is why some people gain weight while others are immune to weight gain when same amount of food with identical composition is consumed. It is too common to hear many people lamenting about their body system that does not readily respond to reduction of calories though physical exercise has often been cited as the most important critical factor that decides how much body weight is put on from a given diet. According to some recent scientific studies such aberrations can be explained by the peculiarities of the genes present in people whose response to food intake defies current logic. Here is a take on this new development vis-a-vis obesity epidemic that is haunting the world to day.   

The mice were eating their usual chow and exercising normally, but they were getting fat anyway. The reason: researchers had deleted a gene that acts in the brain and controls how quickly calories are burned. Even though they were consuming exactly the same number of calories as lean mice, they were gaining weight. So far, only one person — a severely obese child — has been found to have a disabling mutation in the same gene. But the discovery of the same effect in mice and in the child — a finding published Wednesday in the journal Science — may help explain why some people put on weight easily while others eat all they want and seem never to gain an ounce. It may also offer clues to a puzzle in the field of obesity: Why do studies find that people gain different amounts of weight while overeating by the same amount? Scientists have long thought explanations for why some people get fat might lie in their genes. They knew body weight was strongly inherited. Years ago, for example, they found that twins reared apart tended to have similar weights and adoptees tended to have weights like their biological parents, not the ones who reared them. As researchers developed tools to look for the actual genes, they found evidence that many — maybe even hundreds — of genes may be involved, stoking appetites, making people voraciously hungry. This rare gene-disabling mutation, though, is intriguing because it seems to explain something different, a propensity to pile on pounds even while eating what should be a normal amount of food. Investigators are now searching for other mutations of the same gene in fat people that may have a similar, but less extreme effect. The hope is that in the long term, understanding how this gene affects weight gain might lead to treatments for obesity that alter the rate at which calories are burned. "The history of obesity for many many years has been one of blaming people for lack of self control," said Dr. Joseph Majzoub, chief of endocrinology at Boston Children's Hospital and lead author of the new paper. "If some of it is due to a slow metabolism, that would completely change the perspectives of parents and patients. It really would change the way we think of the disease."

Of course the above findings are only an indicator that needs to be pursued further but it definitely gives hope of tackling obesity ultimately at the gene level. It is some what scary to know that slow metabolic system can make the utilization of dietary components more efficient resulting in accumulation of weight and such situation can exist in many people with mutated genes, either inherited or formed during early childhood. Probably genetic scientists need to pursue this line of research much more vigorously to clinch the issue with least delay. If such studies can result in evolving tools to attack diseases like diabetes and obesity through genetic manipulation, mankind will greatly be benefited!


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