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Common Variation in FTO Gene May Make Obesity More Likely

April 12, 2007 -- Researchers today announced the discovery of the first common gene link to obesity.

They reviewed genetic data on more than 38,000 children and adults in the U.K. and Europe. A certain variation in the FTO gene was associated extra body fat, obesity, and type 2 diabetes.

Other studies show there are genetic links to obesity. But "the key thing about this finding is that this is a common variant, which is present in over half the population" studied, Andrew Hattersley, DM, FRCP, told reporters in a news conference.

Hattersley is a professor of molecular medicine at Peninsula Medical School in Exeter, England.

Lifestyle Still Counts

The finding sheds new light on the genetics of obesity. But diet and exercise still count, notes researcher Timothy Frayling, PhD, tells WebMD.

"Certainly diet and exercise are very important factors in influencing obesity risk and regardless of your genetic makeup it remains important to try to eat sensibly and exercise," says Frayling, an associate professor at Peninsula Medical School.

"However," Frayling says, "we all know people who are careful with their diets and take regular exercise but still cannot avoid putting on weight as they get older, whilst conversely there are people who are not very careful and remain slim.

"It is these types of differences that are likely to have a genetic component and our finding represents one of those genes," says Frayling.

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