In an era where it’s a high-priority concern, scientists found how the gene that prompts obesity works which may provide with future preventive treatments in the future.
- The brain derived neurotropic factor (BDNF) gene has been linked to obesity
- It helps inhibit appetite and controls the way we eat
- Researchers found that a mutation of the gene predisposes patients to higher BMI and higher levels of body fat
- People with faulty copies of the gene were more likely to be obese
Researchers at the Georgetown University Medical Center have found how a mutation in a single gene led toward a tendency of becoming obese. The brain derived neurotropic factor (BDNF) gene helps our bodies understand when we’re full and bring on that familiar sensation. It effectively stimulates the brain and nervous levels to let us know that we do not require more food.
The BDNF gene has been long linked with obesity by previous studies. However, it hasn’t been precisely understood how it works and why. According to Dr. Jack Yanovski who co-authored the study, it took several years of research for scientists to understand how it can predispose patients to obesity.
The problem roots in a mutation of BDNF, which causes it to reduce its levels in the hypothalamus. That particular area in the brain is responsible for controlling eating and body weight. A malfunction, or in this case a reduction of BDNF levels, leads to less control. Reportedly, the gene no longer properly works at managing the appetite and makes errors in influencing how people eat.
Researchers conducted a study on over 31,000 people, both men and women, taking into account their BMI and genes. The BDNF genes that worked properly were labeled as ‘T’, while the rarer ones malfunctioning and showing lower levels were called ‘C’. People can receive two copies of each, or in combination, such as TT normal copies, CT, or CC. Each combination presented with different risks toward obesity.
The tendency toward a higher BMI seemed more pronounced in African-Americans and Hispanics. Children of either ethnicity had a higher BMI or body fat when they presented with CT or CC combination of genes. Overall, the CC combination seemed to be linked to obesity much more often than CT, or, naturally, the TT copies.
The researchers have stated that additional studies will be needed, but it does seem that this could pave the way for better treatments. By determining the combination of genes within the patient, doctors could create a better plan. In fact, they could personalize courses of treatments, and more effectively help those suffering from the condition.
Obesity has become a major topic, especially in the United States, which further leads to two of the leading causes of deaths for the nation. Be it cardiovascular problems or diabetes, obesity has proven itself to be ultimately lethal in the end. Finding a way to treat it or prevent it could significantly help hundreds of thousands of people.
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