Researchers find childhood obesity linked to genetics

Childhood obesity is usually linked to overeating, fast food, and insufficient exercise. Now, researchers have found one more thing to add to the list. A study by the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia has shown there are several genetic variants connected with adult obesity that are also detected in childhood obesity, including two new variants never associated with obesity before. These variants are said to increase the risk of obesity in children in the first few years of life. How these variants cause obesity is still not known, but according to the Associate Director of the Center for Applied Genomics, it is possible they affect the intestine. Childhood obesity has tripled in the United States over the past few decades, but human genetics have remained static, leading researchers to believe there are still environmental causes of obesity as well.

The researchers collected data from 14 studies conducted in the United States, Canada, Europe, and Australia. They scanned the genomes of 5,530 obese and 8,300 non-obese children. Findings displayed eight new signals of genetics associated with childhood obesity. For validation purposes, researchers studied these signals in 2,000 additional obese and 4,000 non-obese children; they found two signals associated with childhood obesity. Since it is possible for the signals to be picked up from the surrounding genes, additional research must be done in order to confirm the genes giving off the signals are actually the same genes responsible for childhood obesity. Additionally, further research could eventually lead to treatments for obese children.