Doctors finding genetic links to obesity

August 11, 2010

It is a leading cause of mortality, morbidity, disability, health care utilization and costs in the U.S. Experts predict the increase in obesity will strain our health care system with millions of additional cases of diabetes, heart disease and disability.

Obesity is a disease that impacts more than one-third of the adult American population, which is about 72 million people. More than 66 percent of adult Americans are categorized as being overweight or obese.

Since 1960, Americans have increased average heights by 1 inch and average weight by 25 pounds. In 1963, a 10-year-old boy weighed about 74 pounds. Now, the average boy weighs 85 pounds, according to The Obesity Society.

Each year, obesity causes about 112,000 excess deaths in America. Obesity is linked to many adverse health effects including high cholesterol, diabetes, hypertension, gallstones, fatty liver disease, sleep apnea, heart failure, birth defects, miscarriages and asthma.

Health care costs of American adults with obesity amount to about $147 billion.

GENETIC LINK: The best success stories providing evidence for obesity genes come from several cases of extreme obesity due to mutations of single genes, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Melanocortin 4-receptor gene, which is related to the control of feeding behavior, has been found to be strongly associated with a minority of obesity cases in several populations.

Progress in identifying the multiple genes associated with the most common form of obesity has been slow but is accelerating. Single mutations in 11 genes were strongly implicated in 176 cases of obesity worldwide, according to the CDC. Additionally, 50 chromosomal locations relevant to obesity have been mapped with potential causal genes identified in most of those regions.

Recently, studies reported that another gene called FTO, fat mass and obesity-associated gene, might be responsible for up to 22 percent of all cases of common obesity in the general population. This gene also shows a strong association with diabetes, according to researchers.


Deborah Robison, Director of Communications
Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute at Lake Nona
Orlando, FL
(407) 745-2073

Copyright © 2023 WLS-TV. All Rights Reserved.