New ‘fat’ gene to help in fight against obesity

Scientists working in Spain, the US, and Canada have identified a 'fat gene' they say could play a key role in the fight against global obesity.

New 'fat' gene to help in fight against obesity
One in six Spaniards is obese, according to OECD figures from 2012. Photo: Shutterstock.

Previous studies have shown that a gene called FTO is vital in the development of obesity, a major worldwide health problem.

Now scientists have found a new piece of the puzzle. Rats with the so-called IRX3 gene don't get as fat when eating junk food, a study just published in the science journal Nature shows.

"Our data strongly suggest IRX3 controls body mass and regulates body composition," said study author Marcelo Nóbrega. 

"Any association between FTO and obesity appears due to the influence of IRX3," he added.

In their study, the researchers found that rats with the IRX3 gene had 25 to 30 percent less fat because of a loss of white fat and increased metabolic activity. The same link was also found in humans and zebrafish.

The researchers including a member of Seville's CABD research centre believe the new discovery could help in the development of drugs to fight obesity and diabetes.   

Global rates of obesity, or a body mass index of 30 or more, have nearly doubled since 1980, according to the World Health Organization. Some 1.4 billion adults were affected in 2008.

Obesity can lead to cardiovascular problems, diabetes, arthritis, and some cancers. 

Spain is the thirteenth most obese country in the world according to the WHO while an OECD update in 2012 reported one in six Spanish adults were obese.

Don't miss stories about Spain, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


4 in 5 Spanish men will be overweight by 2030: WHO

Shift from Mediterranean diet to fast food will result in 80 percent of Spanish men and 55 percent of women being overweight by 2030, the World Health Organisation has warned.

4 in 5 Spanish men will be overweight by 2030: WHO
Photo of overweight men: Shutterstock

Spaniards are packing on the kilos at an alarming rate.

That’s according to an investigation by the country’s Mar de Barcelona hospital –backed up by the World Health Organisation – which found that 80 percent of Spanish men and 55 percent of women will be overweight by 2030 if current trends continue.

According to their data this will mean that 27 million people in Spain will be overweight in 11 years time, representing a hefty €3 billion bill for the country’s public health system.

The news comes just months after another study by the US’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation claimed Spaniards will have the longest life expectancy in the world by 2040, largely thanks to the health benefits of their famed Mediterranean diet.

The American institution’s findings clash with those published in the Spanish Cardiology Magazine this week, as the latter suggest there is a growing shift among the Spanish population towards eating foods made up of processed fats and sugars rather than the traditional fruit and veg found in Spanish cuisine.

“There are currently 25 million people in Spain who are overweight, three million more than a decade ago,” Dr Albert Goday, one of the authors of the study, said of his team's findings.

“That means that conservatively there will be three million more (16 percent) by 2030 if the trend continues.”

“In men excess weight is more common up to the age of 50 whereas from 50 onward obesity rises more among women due our hormonal metabolisms.”

Researchers used data from 300,000 people’s BMI between 1987 and 2014 to conduct the study and make their estimations.

Adult Body Mass Index (BMI), a person's weight in kilograms divided by the square of height in metres, will classify someone as overweight is it’s between 25 and 30, and obese if it’s over 30.

Being overweight can result in a higher risk of suffering diabetes, hypertension, strokes, cancer and heart attacks.

SEE ALSO: Canary Island schools offer free fruit to kids to fight obesity