Researchers at the University of Cambridge have completed a massive-scale genetic study in which they have homed in on several types of anti-obesity variant in human DNA. These variants all occur within a single gene and can determine who easy – or how difficult – it will be for someone to be able to drop the pounds.
The researchers were particularly interested in one unique anti-obesity variant of the MC4R gene. This was because it could provide people with natural protection against the onset of obesity. Should the predictions of the researchers be correct, the findings from this study could potentially mean that new weight loss pills can be developed to replicate the effects of this variation.
The idea is that because this anti-obesity variant in someone’s DNA can protect him or her from gaining an unhealthy amount of weight, a drug that produces similar effects could do the same thing. In this sense, it could potentially help people at risk of obesity to avoid unhealthy weight gain. Moreover, with the help of that type of effect, a drug with similar benefits to the variant could support the efforts of a dieter with obesity.
It is for this reason that scientists have had their eye on this anti-obesity variant for the last few decades. Prior research has shown that different variants of the MC4R gene have an impact on a person’s natural metabolism and appetite regulation. While some variations reduce the gene’s activity, others increase it.
Researchers have found that people who have morbid obesity also often have variants of the MC4R gene that reduce its activity. On the other hand, people with the anti-obesity variant of the gene are those with the version that increases the gene’s activity.
Animals studies replicating the genetic variation have managed to change the appetite and overeating habits of the subjects.
In this most recent study, the researchers at the University of Cambridge examined data from about 500 million people across the United Kingdom, each of which had different variations of the MC4R gene. The study identified 61 different variations to that gene, including the anti-obesity variant. Each variation had different levels of genetic activity.
About 6 percent of the subjects had one of the nine different types of the anti-obesity variant. Those with that variant type had significantly reduced risk of diabetes, coronary artery disease and obesity. The research results were published in the Cell medical journal.