Obesity Gene Identified in People of African Descent
New study discovers three unique gene variants that influence body size and obesity.
African American women have the highest rates of being overweight or obese compared to other groups in the country, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and a new study revealed it may be due to genetics.
The study, conducted by Dartmouth’s Institute for Quantitative Biomedical Sciences and the Center for Genomic Medicine, found three unique gene variants that influence body size and obesity in people of African ancestry.
Researchers examined 3.2 million genetic variants in more than 30,000 people with African heritage for links to body-mass index. It is the largest study ever done on this population to date.
The large-scale genetic analysis searched for clues as to why some groups may seem more prone than others to physical health risks like obesity.
Authors and professors involved in the study noted people from different populations share similar genetic traits that impact body size. 32 gene variants previously associated with BMI in Asian and European populations were discovered in people of African descent. They found people with African ancestry have three unique genetic variations that work in sync with environmental factors to impact BMI, though environmental and behavioral factors like lack of exercise and poor diets also play a major role.
"While some genetic variants are likely to increase or decrease weight in all people, most are likely to influence weight in specific people depending on their genetic background and their unique environmental history including diet, toxic metal exposure, exercise, etc." Jason Moore, genetics professor and director of the iQBS said.
The researchers involved say their findings may help scientists and clinicians to understand and better prevent or treat obesity among the African American community, though he cautions the study is just beginning to discover and interpret the role of genetic variation in obesity.
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