Fat genes are to blame for a fifth of obesity
The research is expected to fuel moves to categorise obesity as a disability and could change thinking in the NHS about how the condition is treated
Fat genes are to blame for more than a fifth of obesity meaning exercise and dieting are of little use to millions, a new study has found.
The landmark research, published in the journal Nature, is the most precise estimate yet for the percentage of obesity caused by DNA rather than lifestyle and is expected to fuel moves to categorise obesity as a disability.
It could change thinking in the NHS about how the condition is treated, experts suggest.
Current figures suggest about a quarter of adults and one in ten children in Britain are obese and up to £8 billion a year is spent treating obesity and related illnesses.
Researchers from the Genetic Investigation of Anthropometric Traits consortium analysed DNA from more than 300,000 people worldwide to complete the study.
Elizabeth Speliotes, of the University of Michigan, who led the research, told The Times the research clearly showed there was no single gene that drove obesity.
“The large number of genes make it less likely that one solution to beat obesity will work for all and opens the door to possible ways we could use genetic clues to help defeat obesity,” she said.
Alistair Hall, professor of medicine at the University of Leeds, who contributed data to the study, added that exercising and eating healthily were still the best protection against becoming fat, but the discovery “could help many people born with a disposition to put on too much weight”.
A companion paper, also published in Nature, claimed that women are much more prone than men to genetic quirks that cause fat to accumulate around the waistline rather than the hips, exposing them to a greater risk of type-2 diabetes and cardiovascular trouble.
Out of the 20 areas of DNA linked to fat distribution that affect one sex more than the other, 19 have a stronger effect on women.
The authors suggested that the disparity could be explained by sex hormones