A team of researchers has linked a single gene variation to obesity in children and adults. A single variation in the gene for brain-derived neurotropic factor (BDNF) may influence obesity in children and adults, according to the study that suggests that a less common version of the BDNF gene may predispose people to obesity by producing lower levels of BDNF protein, a regulator of appetite, in the brain.
The authors propose that boosting BDNF protein levels may offer a therapeutic strategy for people with the genetic variation, which tends to occur more frequently in African Americans and Hispanics, than in non-Hispanic Caucasians. The study is published in the journal Cell Reports.
Obesity in children and adults is a serious issue in the United States, contributing to health conditions such as heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes. Importantly, genetic factors can predispose a person to obesity, as well as influence the effectiveness of weight-loss strategies.
The body relies on cells to process and store energy, and changes in genes that regulate these functions can cause an imbalance that leads to excessive energy storage and weight gain.
Jack A. Yanovski, one of the study authors, said that this study explains how a single genetic change in BDNF influences obesity and may affect BDNF protein levels. Finding people with specific causes of obesity may allow researchers to evaluate effective, more-personalized treatments.
Researcher Joan C. Han said that lower BDNF levels may contribute to obesity in people with the C allele. If these findings are supported by additional studies, boosting BDNF levels may prove beneficial.
The study appears in Cell Reports.