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Germany

Calorie-Burning "Switch" In Our Genes Determines Obesity

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.

In Montreal, destined since the womb.
In Montreal, destined since the womb.
Pia Heinemann

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.

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Geopolitics

Utter Pessimism, What Israelis And Palestinians Share In Common

Right now, according to a joint survey of Israelis and Palestinians, hopes for a peaceful solution of coexistence simply don't exist. The recent spate of violence is confirmation of the deepest kind of pessimism on both sides for any solution other than domination of the other.

An old Palestinian protester waves Palestinian flag while he confronts the Israeli soldiers during the demonstration against Israeli settlements in the village of Beit Dajan near the West Bank city of Nablus.

A Palestinian protester confronts Israeli soldiers during the demonstration against Israeli settlements in the West Bank village of Beit Dajan on Jan. 6.

Pierre Haski

-Analysis-

PARIS — Just before the latest outbreak of violence between Israelis and Palestinians, a survey of public opinion among the two peoples provided a key to understanding the current situation unfolding before our eyes.

It was a joint study, entitled "Palestinian-Israeli Pulse", carried out by two research centers, one Israeli, the other Palestinian, which for years have been regularly asking the same questions to both sides.

The result is disastrous: not only is the support for the two-state solution — Israel and Palestine side by side — at its lowest point in two decades, but there is now a significant share of opinion on both sides that favors a "non-democratic" solution, i.e., a single state controlled by either the Israelis or Palestinians.

This captures the absolute sense of pessimism commonly felt regarding the chances of the two-state option ever being realized, which currently appears to be our grim reality today. But the results are also an expression of the growing acceptance on both sides that it is inconceivable for either state to live without dominating the other — and therefore impossible to live in peace.

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