I recently wrote about the worldwide food price crisis, which has the potential to leave millions in the Indian subcontinent malnourished in the upcoming months and years. A number of commenters then wrote in to point out that middle-class Indians, who can afford to eat high-calorie, processed foods, have pretty unhealthy eating habits, and are rapidly growing obese.
It’s true, but it’s not only diet. The BBC has a recent article summarizing the findings of a recent study suggesting that 50% of people of Indian descent carry a gene that predisposes them to obesity.
The gene is located near the MC4R sequence, which has been linked by some scientists with binge eating:
The gene sequence sits close to – and possibly influences – a gene called MC4R, which regulates energy levels in the body by influencing how much we eat and how much energy we expend or conserve, and which has been directly implicated in rare forms of extreme childhood obesity.
The researchers discovered that the sequence is associated with a 2cm expansion in waist circumference, a 2kg gain in weight, and a tendency to become resistant to insulin, which can lead to type 2 diabetes. (link)
(Incidentally, a while ago we wrote about the growth of Type II diabetes amongst South Asians: here)
New Kerala actually gives a much more technical summary of the results of the study, for those who are interested:
The team from the Cambridge GEM consortium (Genetics of Energy Metabolism) and Oxford University and a collaboration between 77 institutions from the UK, USA, France, Germany, Italy, Finland and Sweden analysed 77,000 adults and discovered two copies of genetic variants that resulted in an average increase in weight of about 1.5 kg.
Previous studies demonstrated the a role for the FTO gene, which showed that people carrying two copies of an FTO variant are about 2-3 kg heavier than those who have no copies of the variant.
The recently discovered variants act along with the variants of the FTO gene and individuals carrying variants in both genes were found to be, on average, 3.8 kg heavier. [...]
The new variants lie some distance from the MC4R gene. The team suspect that the sequence variant changes activity of the MC4R gene, perhaps by disrupting DNA regions required for normal activity of MC4R.
Hm, reading all this makes me wonder about my own genetic make-up. Would people get themselves tested for this, if a simple test were possible? How might it affect you if you knew that you were genetically predisposed to obesity?
(Incidentally, the findings were originally published in the journal Nature Genetics; I have not yet been able to find the specific article as of yet…)