A Skinny Gene Exists, According To New Study

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Does it ever seem like some people can eat whatever they want and stay slim? There’s a scientific reason for this, CNN is reporting. In a new study, it was discovered that some people have specific gene regions keeping them smaller, as well as a lack of gene variants that have been linked to being overweight. The study was published on Thursday, January 24, in the journal, PLOS Genetics.

“We’ve found that there are genes associated with thinness,” said Sadaf Farooqi, professor of metabolism and medicine at Cambridge University. “It’s easy to rush to judgment and criticize people for their weight, but the science shows that things are far more complex. We have far less control over our weight than we might wish to think.”

According to Farooqi, who led the study, your genes can play at least 40 percent of a role in your weight. In previous research, twins with different body weights who were raised in the same environment were observed, leading scientists to deduce that genes played a part in their weight difference. For this study, the researchers added up different gene variants to create a sort of genetic “risk score.” This number tended to be lower in thin people and higher in overweight people.

The research team compared the DNA of around 14,000 people. Some of these participants were sorted into groups: people with a body mass index of less than 18, but had no history of an eating disorder or medical condition were sorted into one group, while another group of overweight people with a body mass index higher than 40 were placed in another group. Then there was a third group of people considered to be of normal weight, with a body mass index between 19 and 25.

After collecting DNA from these participants via saliva and blood, over 100 gene variants were discovered that added up to various genetic risk scores. Unfortunately, the risk score for overweight people is much higher, with obesity-related conditions such as heart disease, stroke, or diabetes being one of the leading causes of death. There is good news, however: if these hereditary genetics can be pinpointed, scientists may be able to come up with new ways to lose weight.

Dr. Steve Mowle, honorary treasurer at the Royal College of GPs in the U.K., said his team hoped their study would help society reevaluate the assumptions made about overweight people. He does note, however, that genes aren’t always the only culprit for obesity. Other factors such as diet and exercise still play a part in someone’s weight.