How do our genes affect our weight

Researchers in Cambridge have discovered genetic variants (small changes in DNA) that help protect people from obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart disease. These findings could help researchers to develop drugs for people who have weight problems.

Obesity is a serious problem; it can lead to heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke and mobility problems.

Cambridge researchers studied a gene called ‘MC4R’ which is known to regulate weight by acting like an ‘off’ switch for appetite. By looking at samples from half a million volunteers in the UK, they found that in naturally lean people small changes in the MC4R gene were able to limit their appetite to prevent weight gain. They also found that some people had a version of the gene that defended against the risk of diseases associated with obesity such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

These findings help explain the genetics of why slim people have an advantage when managing their weight. The research could now help researchers to develop new treatments to help people reduce excess weight.

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