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Gene Linked to Binge Eating

Flawed Appetite Suppression Gene Found in Obese Binge Eaters
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"There is always a lot of guilt among people who are very overweight, because they believe, and are told, that it is totally their fault," he says. "My patients with this mutation seem to be much less depressed because we have given them a reason for why they are the way they are."

While this specific mutation appears to be the cause of obesity in, at most, one in 20 obese people, Horber believes genetic factors play some role in almost all obesity. Dozens of different genes have been implicated in human obesity, but molecular endocrinologist Joel F. Habener, MD, says obesity is rarely caused by just one genetic mutation.

"Obesity is a complex disease that is likely to have multiple genetic and environmental influences," says Habener, who wrote an editorial published along with the study. "Environmental factors appear to be driving an epidemic of obesity. We live in an increasingly sedentary society and have ready access to inexpensive calories." Habener is a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, and is director of the laboratory of molecular endocrinology at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Both researchers say the search for the genetic cause of obesity should lead to better drugs to treat the problem. In his editorial, Habener wrote that drugs already under development may prove effective for the treatment of binge-eating disorder in overweight patients.

"Right now there are really no effective drugs to treat morbid obesity," Habener tells WebMD. "But I think within the next decade we will see better treatments based on genetic research."

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