The researchers used data from 14 studies that used meta-analyis from North America, Australia and Europe. The team compared genetic data from 5,530 obese children and 8,318 non-obese kids.
The researchers uncovered two new childhood obesity related genes, one on chromosome 13, near the OLFM4 gene and the other one on chromosome 17 within gene HOXB5. The results are published in Nature Genetics.
Even though the factors of nutrition, physical activity and environment play a role in childhood obesity, the study shows there is also a genetic relationship.
The fact that genetics play a role in childhood obesity is not a new discovery, experts have known this for a while. However, what is new is discovering these two gene variants predispose some children to obesity more than others, as early as the first few years of life.
Experts are still searching for the complete list of gene variants involved in childhood obesity, but feel confident they have identified the variants with the largest effect.
The recents study were also able to identify some of the same genes in the data for obese kids are also detected in adult studies.
While researchers are able to pinpoint which genes are related to obesity, what they are not able to uncover is how they cause obesity.
“When we look at the scientific literature, they may be operating in the intestine,” said Struan Grant, associate director of the Center for Applied Genomics at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia to USA Today, “It may have something to do with the bacteria in the gut.”
Ruth Loos, director of the Genetics of Obesity and Related Metabolic Traits Program at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, was not involved in this study but told USA Today this research, like previous work, “shows that the genetic susceptibility to obesity begins at an early age. However, this does not mean that those who are genetically susceptible are destined to become obese adults, because a healthy lifestyle remains an important factor that can reduce one’s genetic susceptibility.”