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Pear-shape genes found

Monday October 11th, 2010

Scientists have found a series of genes which may decide whether someone piles fat onto their hips or waist, it was announced last night.

The genes play an especially strong role in women, scientists said.

The British research involving nearly quarter of a million people identified 13 genes linked to body shape and another 18 linked to obesity. The findings are reported in Nature Genetics.

The scientists say that even with 13 genes, they have only explained a fraction - one per cent - of the differences in human body shape.

Studies of human health have repeatedly warned that putting weight on around the waist is more dangerous than on the hips - that an apple-shape is more dangerous than a pear-shape.

Researcher Dr Cecilia Lindgren, of Oxford University, UK, said: "By finding genes that have an important role in influencing whether we are apple shaped or pear shaped, and the ways in which that differs between men and women, we hope to home in on the crucial underlying biological processes.

"Understanding biology through finding genes is just a first step in a long journey towards treatment, but it is a vital one.

"As efforts to tackle obesity through changes in lifestyle or by different treatment options have proved extremely challenging, the potential to alter patterns of fat distribution may offer an alternative for future drug discovery."

Dr Ruth Loos, of the MRC Epidemiology Unit, Cambridge, UK, said: "These two studies are the beginning of new insights into to biology of obesity and body shape, which in turn may lead to more targeted approaches to obesity prevention and potentially to the development of new drugs.

"But we should not forget that, while the genetic contribution to obesity is substantial, a large part of obesity susceptibility remains down to our lifestyle."

Professor Jeremy Pearson, of the British Heart Foundation, said the discoveries would be a "stepping stone".

He said: "We’ve known for some time that while fat anywhere in your body is not good for you, fat around the tummy increases your risk of heart disease and other illnesses more than fat around the bum.

"We’ve also known that the pattern for where our body stores fat is partly controlled by our genes, but only one of the genes responsible had been discovered."

Meta-analysis identifies 13 new loci associated with waist-hip ratio and reveals sexual dimorphism in the genetic basis of fat distribution. Nature Genetics October 10 2010 doi:10.1038/ng.685

Tags: Diet & Food | Fitness | Genetics | UK News | Women’s Health & Gynaecology

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