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“Hungry Gene” Discovery May Help Fight Obesity

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Researchers say a genetic mutation may slow metabolism and increase appetite. (Getty Images)

Researchers say a genetic mutation may slow metabolism and increase appetite. (Getty Images)

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ATLANTA (CBS Atlanta) – The discovery of a genetic mutation that slows metabolism may help in the fight against obesity, say researchers.

Scientists at the Institute of Metabolic Science in Cambridge, England found that mice born without a section of DNA, a gene called KSR2, gained weight at a quicker pace.

So they tested humans, analyzing the DNA of over 2,000 severely obese patients.

And some had a mutated version of the same gene.

The mutation is a double whammy, since it also causes an increased appetite.

“You would be hungry and wanting to eat a lot, you would not want to move because of a slower metabolism and would probably also develop type 2 diabetes at a young age,” lead researcher Prof Sadaf Farooqi told the BBC.

She added: “It slows the ability to burn calories and that’s important as it’s a new explanation for obesity.”

It suggests the often-mocked obesity excuse of having a slow metabolism may be true.

Farooqi said less than 1% of people had mutated versions of the gene and some would be a normal weight, but about 2% of children who were obese by the age of five would have the mutated gene.

However, if drugs can be created that target problems with KSR2, then they might be beneficial to anyone who is overweight.

“Other genetic disorders, such as in blood pressure, have shown that even where there’s a normal gene, targeting the pathway can still help,” Prof. Farooqi said.

The amount and types of food eaten, as well as levels of exercise, directly affect weight, but some people at more risk of becoming obese that others.

The findings are published in the journal Cell.

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