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Scientists Identify Genes That Play a Role In Childhood Obesity

Update Date: Apr 11, 2012 12:58 AM EDT

Obesity is one of the most serious problems haunting the young generation in the United States. Unhealthy weight gain usually results from unhealthy food habits and lack of physical exercise.

But recently, scientists have identified two gene indicators that often play a role in children's obesity.The study conducted by the Early Growth Genetics (EGG) Consortium was published online in Nature Genetics recently.

Even though environmental aspects such as wrong food and inactive habits play a major role in childhood obesity, the new study points out a genetic element causing the trend.

"We see a clear genetic signature to childhood obesity, showing that there is more than just an environmental component to the disease," said Dr. Struan F.A. Grant, researcher and associate director of the Center for Applied Genomics at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.These genetic components can point out why some children become obese.

"If we can understand how inherited risk factors change susceptibility to obesity - what's different about the biology of people who are resistant to obesity vs. those who are susceptible - we would get clues for new therapies or interventions that could be safer and more effective than what is currently available," remarked Dr. Joel Hirschhorn, director of the Center for Basic and Translational Obesity Research at Children's Hospital Boston.The study was based on 14 earlier studies including 5,530 childhood obesity cases with a non-obese group of 8,300 all of European ancestry.

Two genes OLFM4 AND Hoxb5 were found to be causing the phenomenon. The presence of these genes also indicated extreme obese children."These variants are conferring their risk early on in life and are really impactful in the first years of life," stated Struan Grant.

"Much work remains to be done, but these findings may ultimately be useful in helping to design future preventive interventions and treatments for children, based on their individual genomes."


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