Scientists have discovered that one gene mutation may be the only thing necessary to determine if an individual is prone to becoming obese.
A rare variety of the BDNF gene could cause people to gain weight, by making lower levels of the BDNF protein which regulates appetite, in the brain.
Researchers from the National Institutes of Health indicate that by increasing levels of the protein, they may be able to make a therapeutic treatment to assist in combating obesity.
Faced by many nations, including the US and UK, obesity is one of the most significant public health concerns. Obesity plays a huge part in causing conditions such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke.
The body relies on cells to store and process energy. Therefore, changes to the genes that control these functions can result in an imbalance that causes excessive weight gain and energy storage.
One of the study’s authors and an investigator at NIH, Dr Jack Yanovski, stated that the BNDF gene has been linked to obesity in the past and scientists have been working very hard for many years to understand the effects of changes in the gene on obesity.
This study details how one genetic change in BDNF gene affects obesity and could affect BDNF protein levels.
The BDNF gene plays a wide array of roles in the nervous system and brain, and at increased levels, the protein can prompt the feeling of being full.
Researchers discerned an area of the BDNF gene where a singular change lowered BDNF levels in the hypothalamus – a vital area of the brain that regulates eating and body weight.
The identified genetic change was not a rare mutation, but instead one that occurs in the general population.
In general, the researchers’ results suggest that the C allele of the BDNF gene could be linked to obesity in humans.
They found that the area of interest mingles with a protein called hnRDP D0B.
If supported by additional studies, increasing BDNF levels may be beneficial.