FoodFacts.com is continually on the lookout for new research and information regarding the obesity epidemic. There have been a number of studies released over the last year offering insights into this growing health problem that is affecting millions of people worldwide. We’re always especially concerned with our children and hopeful that scientists will pinpoint new methods of fighting this ongoing crisis.

Today we learned that researchers in Great Britain have unraveled the puzzle regarding how the gene associated with obesity actually makes people fat. A common variation of the FTO gene affects one in six of the population. That genetic variation makes the population carrying it 70 percent more likely to become obese than those without it.

Researchers from the University College London followed studies of blood samples from people after meals, combined with functional magnetic resonance imaging of volunteers’ brains and cell-based studies looking at ghrelin production at a molecular level.   They found that people with the FTO gene variation not only had higher levels of the hunger hormone called ghrelin in their blood, but also had an increased sensitivity to the chemical in their brains. For the population with this genetic variation, it’s a double hunger effect.

Researchers feel that this work provides new insights and opens up the possibility of new and different treatments. Some experimental drugs that are meant to suppress ghrelin might be effective if they can be targeted to patients with the obesity-risk variant of the FTO gene.

Previous research has already shown that ghrelin can be reduced by eating a high-protein diet, so this new information may mean dietary recommendations that take those previous findings into consideration. While scientists feel that the FTO gene can only explain a small part of the obesity epidemic, they do note that this study’s discovery is an important step forward to understanding the puzzle of the many factors involved in obesity.

Obesity is growing across the globe at an unprecedented pace. The World Health Organization reports that almost 3 million adults die every year as a result of being overweight or obese. And over 40 million children under the age of five were overweight in 2011. Obesity puts people at major risk for diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

FoodFacts.com knows that knowledge is power. Research like this will advance the cause of defeating obesity around the world. An elevated understanding of our bodies, coupled with the nutritional awareness necessary to commit to a healthy lifestyle will help millions of people across the globe to reverse this growing and debilitating trend.

http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/07/15/us-obesity-gene-idUSBRE96E0KB20130715