New Research Links Gene Variance to Childhood Obesity

In the past few years, scientists have speculated about the role of genes and obesity. We have learned that genetic variances can be found in obese populations, but have not yet completely found good use of that knowledge.

According to a new study, UK researchers have recently determined that FTO obesity-risk genotype plays a role in appetite behavior in children. Children who possess the gene variance show impaired levels of food satiety. The study, suggests “that associations between FTO polymorphisms and weight maybe due to differences in appetitive responses.” In other terms, the normal cues that tell children they’ve had enough food, seem to be impaired.

Participants for the research were recruited from the Twins Early Development Study(TEDS), and were genotyped for ntronic FTO SNP (rs9939609). Assessments were performed using the Satiety Responsiveness and Enjoyment of Food) from the Child Eating Behaviour Questionnaire, a parent completed tool.

The authors write, “We used two scales that assess underlying appetitive drivers of food intake, namely Satiety Responsiveness (SR), a measure of the ease with which satiety is achieved (e.g. my child cannot eat a meal if he/she has had a snack just before), and Enjoyment of Food (EF), a measure of the extent to which presentation of palatable foods provokes eating (e.g. my child loves food). Scores on these scales have been shown to be correlated with adiposity.”

After examining the relationship between FTO genotype and measures of appetitive behavior, their findings showed that obesity-linked FTO intronic SNP rs9939609 was associated with impaired satiety responsiveness.

The researchers conclude that “Satiety Responsiveness and Enjoyment of Food are highly heritable. The finding that individuals with two FTO A-alleles have lower responsiveness to satiety cues, and that there is a significant indirect path between FTO genotype and BMI through satiety responsiveness, supports the hypothesis that the FTO association with BMI involves effects on appetite.

The take home message from the research group is, if your child possesses the FTO obesity genotype, there is a “likelihood of overeating in environments where large portion sizes and multiple eating opportunities are the norm.” Further studies will be needed to see if the same holds true for adults.

Source: J Clin Endocrin Metab. First published ahead of print June 24, 2008 as doi:10.1210/jc.2008-0472


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