Scientists Discover Obesity “Master Switch”
Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Harvard University say they've found a genetic "switch" that helps determine whether our bodies have a tendency to burn or store fat. If that's the case, they may have an explantion for why some people are more likely to become obese.
For the study, the team analyzed gene control circuits from more than 100 types of cells and tissues. They found that a gene “switchboard” of sorts, controls the pathway for adipocyte progenitor cells - the immature cells that eventually become fat cells. They also found that genetic differences changed the outcome of the adipocyte cells.
These processes were shown to operate without input from the brain -- which means that in some cases, obesity is not just caused by bad habits. Previously, obesity was believed to be caused solely by “an imbalance between the amount of food we eat and how much we exercise.” But researchers say that this study supports that there is a genetic component to obesity, and that genetic differences can affect how each person’s body controls fat.
Obesity today is estimated to affect more than 500 million people worldwide. In the US, more than one third (78.6 million) of adults are thought to be obese. The burden on the economy is estimated to be at least $200 billion a year.