A new study has finally revealed how the obesity gene, FTO, works and it’s helping experts understand how they can turn it off and how they can treat patients.
Healthy diets and daily physical exercises have rarely helped obese people get back in shape. A recent study even suggested that most of them may never lose a significant amount of weight because their sense of smell is very refined and they can easily pick up food scents in the air. The study was unclear on whether or not obese people were obese because of their sense of smell, but it did establish a link between the two.
And nutritionists and dieticians have long known how hard it is to convince people to adhere to a strict diet. So since 2007 they’ve been working on understanding how the obesity gene works and how they can use it to reduce a person’s appetite.
The new study has found that there’s a faulty version of the FTO gene that causes the energy taken from food to turn into fat and store inside the body, rather than burn. A big question mark is what else may have the same effect on the human body as only 44 percent (44%) of the study participants had this faulty gene.
Researchers from MIT teamed up with colleagues from Harvard University to conduct s set of lab tests on mice cells and human cells. What they learned is that the process caused by the faulty gene can be reversed.
This means that the often debated weight loss pill may soon find its way on the market. But instead of simulating physical exercises, it may simply correct or modify the FTO gene.
However the study has an even bigger implication than that. Many people (experts or not) argue that when a person gains too much weight it’s their own fault, “it was basically their own choice because they choose to eat too much or not exercise”.
But Melina Claussnitzer, lead researcher and genetics specialist from the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, a Harvard-affiliated institution, gave a statement explaining that “For the first time, genetics has revealed a mechanism in obesity that was not really suspected before”.
The research strongly suggests that 44 percent (44%) of obese people may not have had a choice at all, and that their genes made them this way, just like they gave them green, blue or brown eyes.
The study has been well received in the scientific community. Dr. Clifford Rosen, scientist from the Maine Medical Center Research Institute and associate editor for the New England Journal of Medicine, gave a statement saying that the new findings are “a big deal”.
He explained that while many people believe that people get obese because they eat too much, they forget that our fat cells have an important part to play in how the food we eat gets used. But there’s hope as the new findings may open the door to developing meds that can get fat cells to behave differently.
It’s worth mentioning that there are some obesity drugs currently available on the market. However, they are only meant to be used short-term and manipulate brain and appetite, rather than target metabolism.
The findings were published earlier this week, on Wednesday (August 19, 2015), in the New England Journal of Medicine.
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