Researchers have discovered that a trigger in certain genes is responsible for some people burning calories better than others. In the long run, the finding may help in the fight against obesity.
BERLIN — A new study has found that a person's ability to burn calories is determined by the reaction of genes in the womb, which is largely fixed for life. Researchers nevertheless hope the findings can help in the global fight against obesity.
The discovery by the scientists in Germany may offer solace or further frustration for the some 2.1 billion obese and overweight people around the world. At the Max Planck Institute for Immunobiology and Epigenetics, researchers analyzed whether environmental factors play a role in weight gain. They found that when two mice with the exact same genetic makeup are fed the same things, some become obese and others don't, which suggests an epigenetic phenomenon; that is a difference in the way cells read genes.
The scientists looked at the genes of their subjects, discovering that a network of "imprinted genes" are the key to the weight differences. The scientists even succeeded in reducing the activity of those genes, resulting in an immediate effect on the weight of the mice.
It's at birth that the genes decide, like an interrupter that swtiches on, whether the mouse is going to be fat or not. And once the interrupter is activated, its body weight is largely predetermined for life.
An obesity study of twins has confirmed the theory. We may now be able to conclude that some people are genetically prone to obesity — and that this is decided during embryonic development.
Scientists now obviously want to discover whether the interrupter can be switched again, through a change of diet, stress reduction or medication.