Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Is Obesity in Your Head?

Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Is Obesity in Your Head?

Article excerpt

New research suggests genes that predispose people to obesity act in the brain--meaning some people may simply be hardwired to overeat. An international research team co-led by the University of Michigan (U-M) found six new genes that help explain body mass index (BMI) and obesity, and all but one are tied to the brain rather than to metabolic functions such as fat storage and sugar metabolism. In addition to the six new genes, the study also confirmed the role of two other genes previously associated with obesity, says coprincipal investigator Goncalo Abecasis, an associate professor at the U-M School of Public Health. The study appears in the journal Nature Genetics.

It is significant that five of the six new genes also impact brain function because the findings suggest people could simply be programmed to overeat, says U-M postdoctoral researcher Cristen Willer, first author of the study. The brain, she says, has two main functions related to weight: appetite control and the regulation of one's total energy balance (whether someone burns more calories or conserves more energy).

"This research tells you a little about what kinds of drugs you want to develop and where you want them to act," Abecasis says. …

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