There is more evidence that a certain amount of childhood obesity can be attributed to one’s genetic makeup. In fact, they may be missing certain segments of DNA. This is not to say that most kids who are unhealthy can blame Mother Nature – the research tied the phenomenon to severely obese kids.
British researchers from the University of Cambridge and the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute examined the DNA of 300 children who became very fat, in the neighborhood of 220 pounds by age 10.
They looked for deletions or extra copies of DNA segments. What they found was evidence that several rare deletions may promote obesity, including one kind that the researchers found in less than one percent of about 1,200 severely obese children. But, it’s not about slowing metabolism, but increasing appetite.
The deletion on chromosome 16 seems to cause trouble since it removes a gene that the brain needs to respond to the appetite-controlling hormone leptin.
“People with deletions involving this gene had a strong drive to eat and gained weight very easily,” says researcher Dr. Sadaf Farooqi. “It adds to the growing weight of evidence that a wide range of genetic variants can produce a strong drive to eat.”
While this is interesting news in that it may further our understanding severe obesity, it actually has real potential in keeping families together. According to Dr. Farooqi, four children with the chromosome 16 deletion had drawn the attention of British child welfare authorities, who blamed the parents for overfeeding them.
They were able to intervene and get the parents of two children out of trouble with authorities. The other two cases are under discussion.
December 8th, 2009