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Gene linked to childhood greed

Monday January 12th, 2009

Children are sometimes said to have "eyes bigger than their tummies" - and now scientists have found a gene that may explain the phenomenon.

Children who take food when they are full were found to have particular versions of a gene called FTO, according to British scientists.

The findings, reported today in the International Journal of Obesity, help to explain how FTO contributes to humans putting on weight.

During the research some 131 children aged four and five were given a full meal - and then offered biscuits.

Researcher Professor Wardle, of University College London, UK, said: "The occasional treat won't do us any harm – but this study showed that some children don't know when to stop – which could lead to the onset of obesity and a lifetime of health problems."

Professor Wardle, who directs a Cancer Research UK centre, said: "Previous research has shown that the FTO gene is linked to larger body size. We believe this research published today tells us more about how some children are more responsive to signals in their bodies encouraging them to eat when full than others."

Sara Hiom, of Cancer Research UK, said: "A genetic propensity to overeating doesn’t doom a child to a lifetime of obesity. But it does allow us to think about how we can best help the children most at risk of becoming obese.

"An important part of this is to urge parents to provide healthy snack options such as carrot sticks rather than chocolate biscuits and ideally to encourage children to stop eating when full."

J Wardle et al, The FTO gene and measured food intake on children, International Journal of Obesity, 12 January 2009.

Tags: Child Health | General Health | Nutrition & Healthy Eating | UK News

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