Scientists find genetic link to obesity

Obesity and overeating are directly linked to excessive activity in a specific gene found in the human body, researchers confirmed yesterday.

Scientists at the University of Oxford have found the strongest evidence so far of a direct connection between the FTO (fat mass and obesity associated) gene and increased body weight, which may pave the way for develop- ing a revolutionary anti-obesity pill.

The research follows a discovery in 2007 that identified a genetic variant within the FTO gene as being linked to a high likelihood of obesity.

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People with two copies of the genetic variant – approximately 16 per cent of all Europeans – were on average 3kg (6.6lb) heavier than those without it.

In this year's study, the scientists bred mice with extra copies of the FTO gene, finding that the test mice, although healthy, ate more and became fatter than normal mice.

The study, funded by the MRC and the Wellcome Trust, was published in the journal Nature Genetics.