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'Fat gene' clue in obesity battle

13/ 4/2007

A GENE found in 16 per cent of the population could be largely responsible for exploding rates of obesity, it has been revealed.

People with two copies of the variant gene are almost 70 per cent more at risk of being obese than those having none - and 6.5 lbs heavier on average.

Although the gene mutation only accounts for a modest weight increase, scientists believe it can tip the scales and lead to obesity in an already-heavy population.

Obesity rates in England have more than tripled since the 1980s. Around one in five adults are obese and more than half either obese or overweight - almost 24 million people.

By 2010 a third of all men and 28 per cent of women in England will be obese, according to the Department of Health.Obesity is defined by a Body Mass Index (BMI), a measurement relating weight and height, of 30 and over. People who are overweight have a BMI that is between 25 and 30.

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The new findings are the first to identify a common, population-wide genetic link to obesity.

Experts hope the discovery will help them tackle rising levels of obesity, and the associated risk of type 2 diabetes. It might also point towards new drug treatments that stop people becoming grossly overweight.

Obesity greatly increases the risk of heart disease and diabetes.

The obesity gene was identified by scientists from the Peninsula Medical School in Exeter and Oxford University.

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