Study: Strong Genetic Component Found Among Obese Children

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An overweight child reads her part in a skit. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

An overweight child reads her part in a skit. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

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LONDON (CBS Atlanta) – Researchers from University College London found that 30 percent of the differences between the body weight of one child and another can be explained by their genes.

Previous research shows that obesity runs in families. This new study further tied the link between inherited genetic factors and childhood obesity. Thirty two genes were identified as risk factors for obesity in the human genome analysis study that looked to explore the relationship between inherited traits and obesity in children.

“These findings are important because they confirm that in children genes play a very important role in determining body weight,” Dr. Clare Llewellyn, lead author of the study from UCL Health Behaviour Research Centre, was quoted as saying by Science Daily.

She added, “At present only a few genetic variants have been discovered, and these explain a very small amount of individual differences in body weight (around 2 percent). These findings suggest there are hundreds of other genetic variants influencing body weight that are yet to be discovered.”

The influence of genetics could be even greater, the researchers said, because the study only looked at more common genetic features which influence weight, and not rarer mutations which may cause obesity.

The research team studied a random sample of 1.7 million genes in each of 2,269 children between the ages of eight and 11 who were not related to one another. They analyzed the results to determine whether children who were of the same weight shared similar collections of genes which could be responsible for their body shape.

Using a mathematical method they calculated that the combined effects of multiple genes were responsible for about 30 percent of individual differences in children’s weight.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 17 percent — or 12.5 million — of children and adolescents aged two to 19 years of age are obese. Since 1980, obesity prevalence among children and adolescents has almost tripled.

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